In New York's Little Italy, four young men attempt to make their mark in business or crime. Nice guy Tony (David Proval) runs the neighbourhood bar; Mike (Richard Romanus) rips off gullible teenagers from Brooklyn. Mentally unstable Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro) has a fondness for explosives and is seriously in debt to loan sharks. Charlie (Harvey Keitel), nephew of local mafia boss Giovanni (Cesare Danova), dreams of running his own restaurant. Charlie is tested by his friendship with Johnny Boy, whose deliberate disrespect of those to whom he owes money places both in danger.
Review by Richard Kuipers:
With Gangs Of New York in cinemas it's a good time to look at Martin Scorsese's first great American crime story. After respectable practice runs with his autobiographical Who's That Knocking At My Door (1968) and the Roger Corman quickie Boxcar Bertha (1972), Scorsese made his style into a genre of its own with this breathless foray into life and loyalty among New York's Italian-American community.
Filmed with the rough and ready energy of the French New Wave, Mean Streets contains the elements of Scorsese's greatness in their raw form. He would direct more technically accomplished works but rarely has he captured the dilemmas of divided loyalties and Catholic guilt with such adrenalised impact as this journey into the neighbourhoods of his own upbringing. It's something of an irony that most of this film, including the climax, was shot in L.A. but the feel is still totally New York.
Mean Streets is also a landmark for the use of rock music on the soundtrack - a technique pioneered by Scorsese in his first film and in full flourish here. De Niro's solo dance to 'Mickey's Monkey', Keitel's walk with the Ronettes blasting in the background and the use of the Marvelette's 'Please Mr Postman' during the pool room brawl are among the many highlights in a film alive in every detail. Performances are all outstanding with Keitel superb in the quasi-religious role of a man testing his faith in the world he's been born into while attempting to provide salvation for his friend Johnny Boy. De Niro, Romanus, Proval and Amy Robinson as Keitel's epileptic girlfriend all excel in their roles and there's a wonderful cameo by Catherine Scorsese (Martin's mum) as a woman who cares for Teresa.
Don't miss one of the great American films from its most exciting and daring decade of cinema. With beautifully restored pictures and crisp remixed audio this is your chance to witness great crime drama and the birth of brilliant careers on screen and behind the camera. It's not a perfect film - it has jarring moments and a few clumsy plot developments but its influence on contemporary American cinema is massive and its not to be missed on any account.
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MEAN STREETS (R18+)
CAST: Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, David Proval, Amy Robinson, Richard Romanus
PRODUCER: Martin Scorsese, Jonathan T. Taplin
DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese
SCRIPT: Martin Scorsese, Mardik Martin (Martin Scorsese - story)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Kent L. Wakeford
EDITOR: Sid Levin
MUSIC: Eric Clapton, Bert Holland (non-original music by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards)
PRODUCTION DESIGN: not credited
RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Chapel Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 13, 2003 (Sydney only)
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays - March 10, 17, 24, 31, 2015 - at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.