In a lot of ways, Joe Pesci’s character in Casino, Nicky Santoro, is the flipside of his Goodfellas character, Tommy DeVito. While they were both hot-headed gangsters prone to impulsive acts of violence (and both based on real-life criminals), Nicky had a kind of method to his madness, whereas Tommy was really just an overgrown id squeezed into a gangster’s suit.
Sure, Nicky could still fly off the handle, but he could also keep it together when he had to, even if he didn’t necessarily want to. For those moments when you can barely keep your temper in check, let these Nicky Santoro quotes inspire you to bite your tongue and swallow your rage.
“But you gotta do it right. I mean, you gotta have the hole already dug before you show up with a package in the trunk. Otherwise, you’re talking about a half-hour to forty-five minutes worth of digging.”
Something that both Ace Rothstein (Robert De Niro) and Nicky mention early on are the “problems” in Las Vegas, and how so many of them end up buried in the desert that surrounds the city. It’s a harsh truth, for sure, but what’s worth noting here is Nicky’s overall sense of pragmatism, despite the fact that he’s known as such a violent, volatile guy. Even when his temper flares, he always seems to have a backup plan. It might not seem like much, but thinking ahead really can help to improve your impulse control… not Nicky’s of course, but this is all about taking his lessons and learning being better than he was.
“This guy could f*ck up a cup of coffee.”
There’s always that one guy you deal with who can’t seem to get anything right. For Nicky, that guy is Artie Pescano (Vinny Vella), an underboss from the head office who’s sent to Vegas to keep tabs on Nicky and the casino. While it’s clear that Nicky has no respect for the guy, he does his best to keep his frustration to himself so the two can take care of their business together.
The next time you’re stuck dealing with the Artie Pescanos of the world, take a deep breath and try to vent about your feelings to someone you can trust. That can help stave off any outward resentment that might be brewing, and while it might not improve your overall situation, it will help quiet down any potential outbursts.
“I got your head in a f*ckin’ vise. I’ll squash your head like a f*ckin’ grapefruit if you don’t give me a name. Don’t make me have to do this, please. Don’t make me be a bad guy, come on.”
While Nicky will stop at nothing to get what he wants, he’d still prefer the path of least resistance. After two days of interrogating a guy over a botched robbery attempt at his casino, Nicky ends up putting his head in a vise in a last ditch effort to get results. But even then, Nicky remains pragmatic, and practically begs the guy to tell him what he wants to know.
Obviously, you’re not going to go to such extremes but it’s important to remember to appeal to people’s more reasonable sides even in the midst of a conflict before things go too far and your hand is forced. Sometimes, being the voice of reason can help de-escalate an increasingly bad situation, and can help build some common ground to allow for a more rational discussion and a painless resolution.
“Maybe if I stick your f*ckin’ face through that window over here you’ll get unconfused.”
Being direct is usually the best way to go, and right when Nicky starts to throw his weight around Las Vegas, claiming he needs to “get everyone in line,” he goes to a collect a debt that he feels is owed to him. In doing so, he makes it absolutely certain that he’s not in the mood for excuses of any kind. You probably won’t want to threaten violence so readily (or at all, really), but by cutting out any possible cross-talk and addressing a situation head-on, you can help to avoid any problems that may result from miscommunication altogether.
“I’m what counts out here, not your f*ckin country clubs or your f*ckin TV shows! And what the f*ck are you doing on TV anyhow?”
Another moment where Nicky could’ve flown off the handle — but didn’t — is when he’s talking to Ace, whose rising profile in Las Vegas was starting to worry some of the mob bosses back east. Out of respect for their long-time friendship, Nicky does his best to reason with him, not only reminding him of the pecking order, but of the notion that criminals should generally keep a low profile.
Even though you can tell Nicky’s brimming with anger just below the surface, he stops short. It’s hard to find people you can trust. Remember who you’re talking to and your history before you flip out and alter the relationship forever.
“If you ever get out of line over there again, I’ll smash your f*ckin’ head in so hard you won’t be able to put that cowboy hat on. You hear me?”
Sure, this quote comes just after Nicky’s hit one of his associates in the head with a payphone, but the key here is his use of specifics. He doesn’t just threaten his cowboy colleague with violence, he lets him know exactly how severe he’ll be the next time.
Empty threats are one thing, but if you’re able to paint a detailed portrait on how you intend to react in the future (a non-violent one, of course), it’s likely that your words will have a bit more weight to them — particularly if you’ve got the reputation to back it up.