Scorsese is the master of by the book film making and this is incredibly technically well-crafted, although I find it disappointing that he consistently lacks the courage to take stylistic or thematic risks - but it's fine. The flow of the script does wonders for what might be the greatest ensemble performance in film, with Ballhaus framing the psychopathic depravity with a touch of subtle artistry.
_ See, the hardest thing for me was leaving the life. I still love the life. (...) Today, everything is different. There's no action. I have to wait around like everyone else. Can't even get decent food. Right after I got here, I ordered some spaghetti with marinara sauce and I got egg noodles and ketchup. I'm an average nobody. I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook.
It's a really curious film for the fact that, in spite of being soaked in sex and violence, it seems to blunt almost any and every source of conflict, potential or otherwise. It also is really hard to dodge the argument that this movie glamorizes the mafia when goodness in the film is still rooted in the mafia, consequences rise from defying mafia tradition, and the final consequence is loss of the mafia lifestyle.