Vegas at the Movies

There’s nowhere quite like Las Vegas. Whatever you think of Sin City, it’s hard to deny that it’s an utterly unique town and, arguably, one of those places that everyone should experience once. Well, thanks to Betfair, you could find yourself experiencing the casino capital in the best possible fashion – with your mates and, most importantly, without spending a dime!

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You might more readily associate Betfair with sports betting but their casino offering boasts a fresh and exciting array of games, including a pandora’s box of slots and so many casino classics that you can happily pretend to be in Vegas even if you don’t win the holiday.

Inspired by Betfair’s promotion we found ourselves pondering Sin City’s portrayal in the movies. Las Vegas makes a great cinematic backdrop. It’s a shimmering mirage of a city, all shiny surfaces and gaudy, retina assaulting neon, a spectacular but wholly superficial stage upon which some of cinema’s favourite themes make perfect sense. Vegas is a city where unapologetic artifice abounds and everyone is desperate to buy into a fantasy. No wonder Hollywood loves it so much.

Here’s a selection of our favourite cinematic impressions of Las Vegas:

Bugsy (1991)

It makes sense to start with a film that goes right back to the beginning of Las Vegas. Warren Beatty plays Bugsy Siegel – gangster, womaniser and, most importantly, Father of Vegas.  In Beatty’s hands Siegel is a compelling and entirely fitting inventor of Vegas – a good looking, charismatic fantasist mired in grubby criminality. Here is a man who dreams up the seductive fantasy of Vegas in the featureless Nevada desert and ends up falling hard for it himself. Beatty is perfectly cast as a slick, charming rogue infatuated by conspicuous swank and Hollywood glamour and James Toback’s screenplay does an enjoyable job of positing Vegas as a fascinating manifestation of the tarnished American Dream.

Hard Eight (1996)

It’s not set exclusively in Vegas but Paul Thomas Anderson’s Hard Eight captures a hinterland of grifters, chancers and lost souls that one might most readily associate with the fringes of Sin City. An early example of Anderson’s talent for dialogue and ability to coax deft, emotionally resonant performances from his cast, this film might feel relatively minor compared to the sprawling, wide screen films its director would go on to make but remains a well-crafted and affecting example of his work. Phillip Baker Hall in particular is at his understated best as Sydney, a hard-bitten old grifter carrying a secret burden of guilt with tough, melancholic poise.

Viva Las Vegas (1964)

It ain’t exactly a masterpiece – heck, isn’t even one of Elvis’s best – but this does contain the definitive performance of Viva Las Vegas and we have to crowbar Elvis into an article about Vegas somehow right? It might be somewhat insubstantial but Viva Las Vegas works splendidly as an exuberant, technicolour Elvis vehicle that effectively pairs our bequiiffed hero with the showbiz city he became so inextricably intertwined with and the charismatic Ann Margret as his co-star.

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