57 of 62 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Mean Streets (Special Edition) [DVD] (DVD)
'Mean Streets' is, in my opinion, one of Martin Scorsese's best, if not THE best, film he has made. It's the film that established him as a unique film director, and it's an absolute must-buy!
Scorsese's 'Mean Streets' was released in between the two Godfather epics in 1973, and although it shared with the Godfather a passion for Italian-American gangsters, 'Mean Streets' went a completely different way and focused on the everyday lives of gangsters when they mess about, get drunk, shoot some pool, etc. Harvey Keitel plays Charlie, a man who has dreams of moving up in the world; his uncle, a big player in the New York underworld, has plans for Charlie, but Charlie is prevented from rising due to his friendship with Johnny Boy, a 'bum' who gets Charlie into a lot of trouble. When Johnny Boy continues to avoid paying a large loan back to Charlie's friend Michael, things take a dramatic turn for the worse...
Everything about this movie is brilliant. The acting, especially Keitel and Robert De Niro as Johnny Boy, is amazing; it's unbelievable to think that the following year De Niro would win an Oscar for playing the young Vito Corleone, a character that is miles apart from the unstable Johnny Boy - his performance clearly shows what a talent De Niro is. Critics have argued that the plot is too weak and thin, yet I believe it's exactly the opposite: the film is rich in detail (a Scorsese trademark), and the movie addresses Charlie's Catholic guilt - he wants to move up in the underworld, but he fears he will be punished in hell if he does not look after the crazy Johnny Boy. Charlie is torn between the Church, Johnny Boy, and his uncle - you can see why 'Mean Streets' is anything BUT thin!
But the main attraction of the film is Scorsese's direction. You can see how 'Goodfellas', 'Pulp Fiction', 'The Sopranos', etc. came about thanks to 'Mean Streets' - it looks gritty, the fight scenes are chaotic, and very rude language dominates the film. And despite its low budget, Scorsese makes the film look very realistic, along with his trademark rock 'n' roll soundtrack scoring the movie.
The film is like a fast rollercoaster; the camera never stops moving, and it's never boring. I would recommend 'Mean Streets' to every Scorsese and gangster fan as well as most film buffs, because not only is it a fantastic movie, but it's one of the most influential movies in American cinema, and I urge you to buy it! NOW!!