Mean Streets Reviews
A small-time hood struggles to succeed on the "mean streets" of Little Italy.
Filmmaker Martin Scorsese placed himself in the echelon of top directors in his breakthrough movie about small time hoods in the seamier neighborhoods of Manhattan with Keitel as Charlie, a tough guy with some smarts and plenty of Catholic guilt and De Niro in a breakthrough performance as Keitel's loose cannon screw up Johnny Boy who shoots off his mouth more than he should. Funny dialogue (De Niro: `What am I in coffee and cake land, here?'), improvisatory feel throughout and fine camera work mingled with a retro 1960s jukebox soundtrack and always the threat of unsurpressed violence (lotsa fights!). My favorite scene is when Keitel and his boys go to the local bookie in a pool hall and get into not one but two scuffles (`Mook? Pregnant pause: `I'll give ya Mook!') Look sharp for David and Robert Carradine in an unbelievable bar shooting, Scorsese's mother helping Keitel's epileptic girlfriend Robinson and Scorsese himself as an assassin (and yes that's him in the beginning moments as Keitel's voice over'd conscience). Gritty and goofy all at once.
Mean Streets feels almost like the test hybrid for films like Taxi Driver and Goodfellas that would come as early as three years later to close to twenty. As in a lot of Scorsese pictures New York plays a role in itself. You know it's New York in the 1970's, a gritty cess pool that most Americans knew nothing about. This was a film about Scorsese's neighborhood. DeNiro is fantastic as Johnny Boy, a role he plays when he was still the hungry method actor. Where has those days gone Bob?
Mean Streets is Scorsese's first real love letter to New York and helps define his style that has been ripped off several time but never duplicated. You can feel the traffic going by, hear the band playing, and smell the mixture of marinara sauce and sewer like you were actually in Little Italy.