Customer Review

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Four hours will never be better spent., 4 Feb 2004
This review is from: Once Upon A Time In America [DVD] [1984] (DVD)
My oh my.There is a distinct polarisation of opinion of this film on the Amazon website.As you can see from the five stars i believe this is a truly great film, a classic ,a masterpiece.Yes it,s long, yes it,s slow, yes the lead characters are amoral thugs but none of this matters.This labyrinthine tale of Jewish gangsters subsides to an emotional core that is sombre and elgaic and ultimately moving.Those who don,t get it....well i suggest they consult a doctor because they may well have a lump of sandblasted tar instead of a heart.
Sergio Leone,s interpretation of Harry Grey,s "The Hoods" takes an average pulp thriller and transforms it into a complex epic that slips easily between three time periods and gradually reveals a monumental betrayal.The genesis and evolution of the characters story is beleivable and though the fact that the screenplay was produced by Italians means the dialouge is occasionally clunky it,s never unrealistic or unintentionally humourous.
Robert De Niro plays the adult "David "Noodles" Aaronson" who in one of the films lighter scenes(played by the child actors who potray the characters in their younger years , obviously) meets Max played by James Woods who quickly becomes fellow leader of the gang Noodles ran.Noodles has the hots for the daughter of the local bar owner, Deborah played by Jennifer Connelly, and it,s the dichotomy between Noodles deep friendship with Max and his love for Deborah that provide much of the films narrative momentum.The gang gradually progress to become criminals of some repute,most of which occurs while Noodles is in prison for kniving a rival gang leader, but they are still employed by a mob boss played by Joe Pesci to intervene in industrial disputes or murder fellow mobsters.
Max has a fixation with robbing the federal reserve which Noodles knows is a scuicide mission,so in order to save his friend he turns them in to the police but the arrest goes horribly wrong and they all perish.Noodles is now alone and pursued by henchman of a vengeful mob boss. Wisely he decides to escape taking all the gangs ill gotten gains only to discover it,s all gone.He has no alternative but to leave town on the first bus out which goes to some back of beyond town where he spends the next thirty years.....until a letter arrives offering him money for one last job.Knowing they,ve found him he returns only to discover things are not what they seem.
This is a sumptuous film,beautifully shot which looks great on DVD compared to my old grainy video copy.Leone,s trademark technique of lingering on characters faces is used extensively but all the actors are superb and carry it off easily,particually De Niro playing the old stooped Noodles.Some of the scenes as he visits old haunts and comes across old acquaintances are astonishingly poignant.Ennio Morricone,s extraordinary evocative score plays a major part in this.Apparantly it was played on set to help the actors find the right mood.It worked beautifully.
Noodles is not a particually sympathetis character but his violent past clearly haunts him.His betrayal, his rape of Deborah when he realises she intends to leave him behind in her life,the men he killed all weigh heavily on his mind and its testimony to Leone that he manages to make the audience care about these misanthropic people.
The complaints about the point at which the film cuts to the scond disc are fully justified.Whoever made this crass decision should be ashamed.The commentary by film critic Richard Shickel is a tad dull and at times a bit patronising but theres a doccumentary to add a bit more depth.But i buy DVD,s for the film and they don,t come better than "Once Upon a Time in America".Ignore the grumpys, this a terrific film and anyone who complains because the ending is ambiguous should really stick to Michael Bay movies."Once Upon a Time in America " is magnificent cinema.Peerless.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 20 Jan 2012 22:37:04 GMT
Jb Eadie says:
hear hear i saw this on telly a few weeks ago i think it was the four hour version and i had not seen this version love everything about it and de niro grinning while the credits roll with that music genius
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