Mean Streets (Special Edition) [DVD]
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Four Italian-Americans from New York's lower East Side hang around at a local bar. Charlie (Harvey Keitel), the most responsible of the group, tries to protect his girlfriend's cousin Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro) from the local debt collectors, but his young charge seems determined to live fast and die young. Heavily influenced by the French New Wave, 'Mean Streets' provided the first high-profile success for director Martin Scorsese and star Robert De Niro.
After Martin Scorsese went to Hollywood in 1972 to direct the low-budget Boxcar Bertha for B-movie mogul Roger Corman, the young director showed the film to maverick director John Cassavetes and got an instant earful of urgent advice. "It's crap," said Cassavetes in no uncertain terms, "now go out and make something that comes from your heart." Scorsese took the advice and focused his energy on Mean Streets, a riveting contemporary film about low-life gangsters in New York's Little Italy that critic Pauline Kael would later call "a true original, and a triumph of personal filmmaking." Starring Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel in roles that announced their talent to the world, it set the stage for Scorsese's emergence as one of the greatest American filmmakers. Introducing themes and character types that Scorsese would return to in Taxi Driver, GoodFellas, Casino, and other films, the loosely structured story is drawn directly from Scorsese's background in the Italian neighbourhoods of New York, and it seethes with the raw vitality of a filmmaker who has found his creative groove. As the irresponsible and reckless Johnny Boy, De Niro offers striking contrast to Keitel's Charlie, who struggles to reconcile gang life with Catholic guilt. More of an episodic portrait than a plot-driven crime story, Mean Streets remains one of Scorsese's most direct and fascinating films--a masterful calling card for a director whose greatness was clearly apparent from that point forward. --Jeff Shannon
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
As with Goodfellas, it is plot-lite and style heavy, but where in the latter the style dominated, here it has a rough-cut and ready-dubbed feel that energises the film and accurately reflects the precarious state of the characters, be it financial, mental or moral. All the trademarks are here - the tracking shots down bars, the sudden explosions of violence, a popular music soundtrack that exists as much within the film as over it, the concern with incompatibility of religion with everyday life - but here they are fresh and integral to the film rather than carefully stage-managed.
If De Niro's unstable Johnny Boy now looks a bit too much like barnstorming with many of the tricks he has since pretty much worn out through over-use, Keitel's diplomatic lead and the astonishingly natural performances from the supporting cast are the real glue that holds the film together and convince us we are eavesdropping on real lives.
Filled with astonishing moments Mean Streets remains one of the few key American films of the early Seventies that still grabs your undivided attention with none of its original power diluted by time and imitation.
All-New Digital Transfer
Commentary by Director Martin Scorsese
Vintage Featurette: Martin Scorsese
= Back on the Block.
The cast are perfection. Harvey Keital and Robert DeNiro spark brilliantly off each other, helped by a fabulous script and I believe some improvisation as well. Noteably the scene in the back of the bar "you mean last Tuesday". The dialogue in this film is marvellous and occasionally it is intentionally funny as well.
Prior to this film Scorcese had made some interesting films but none of them had his stamp on them. Mean Streets comes straight in out of nowhere as a fully fledged masterpiece:
The use of music when Johnny enters the bar; Its done in slow motion to the Stones Jumpin' Jack Flash.
The use of colour.
The drunk scene, not very long, but perhaps the best ever done. The camera (some sort of steadycam) faces Harvey Keital and we are staggering around with him, until eventually he falls over and passes out on the floor - the camera goes with him.
The wonderful fight sequence in the pool room over being called a "Mook"; when nobody knows what a Mook is...
Look out for Scorcese in an uncredited cameo role as Jimmy Shorts, and also for David Carradine as a drunk.
This is essential for any movie collection.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
present for husband he likes all of Robert de niro films. came on time. no complaints.Published 2 months ago by shirley
i think it s such a load of bulocks how could this b such a classic?Published 3 months ago by Max Naegele