Mean Streets (1973)

You don't make up for your sins in church. You do it on the streets...

Original Title : Mean Streets
Director : Martin Scorsese
Writer : Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorsese
Mardik Martin
Genre : Crime
Country : USA
Language : English
Producer : E. Lee Perry , Martin Scorsese , Jonathan T. Taplin
Music : Eric Clapton
Bert Holland
Photography : Kent L. Wakeford
IMDB ID : 0070379
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poster for "Mean Streets" by Martin Scorsese (1973)
Mean Streets (1973) - Martin Scorsese


Robert De Niro John 'Johnny Boy' Civello
Harvey Keitel Charlie Cappa
David Proval Tony DeVienazo
Amy Robinson Teresa Ronchelli
Richard Romanus Michael Longo
Cesare Danova Giovanni Cappa
Victor Argo Mario (as Vic Argo
George Memmoli Joey 'Clams' Scala


The future is set for Tony and Michael - owning a neighbour- hood bar and making deals in the mean streets of New York city's Little Italy. For Charlie, the future is less clearly defined. A small-time hood, he works for his uncle, making collections and reclaiming bad debts. He's probably too nice to succeed. In love with a woman his uncle disapproves of (because of her epilepsy) and a friend of her cousin, Johnny Boy, a near psychotic whose trouble-making threatens them all - he can't reconcile opposing values. A failed attempt to escape (to Brooklyn) moves them all a step closer to a bitter, almost preordained future.


"Let's go to the movies" A bit of misnomer this one, as the uninspiredly-titled "Mean Streets" are rarely mean by Scorcese's later standards. Blows are exchanged without bloodletting and only on a couple of occasions are there genuine instances of violence. Maybe "Relatively Tough Streets" would have been a more accurate title, or "Not So Tough, But Not Exactly Soft Either Streets". Whatever. This is a film worth seeing, if only to view a Scorcese-Keitel partnership when neither of them had yet to have five full-length pictures behind them. As a result it perhaps lack the refinement the director's work was later to develop, the camerawork, though fluid and containing some neat tricks, still shows the man was learning his trade on-screen. The film stock and lighting is often muddy, while the soundtrack is sometimes out of synch. Moreover, the film lacks the strong plot needed to take this into the major league of Scorcese films. Although the classically inspired storyline of Keitel getting drawn into conflict by standing by his girlfriend and her cocksure cousin (DeNiro) is present, the movie is largely a series of incidents drawn together rather than a clear narrative. This is not really a criticism, Mean Streets is a very good film, but by the standards of all concerned it's not outstanding, and lacks focus. The soundtrack of twenty-three separate songs is nicely used, a pleasing touch being that when a song is incidental (That is, not one the characters in the film can hear) it contains the crackles and pop of vinyl. Also good to see Keitel as a clear star, one of the few people that can hold the screen against DeNiro, who was here on his ninth major picture. Another nice image is having home video footage in a film, possibly a first?, and characters introduced by opening monologues, their names highlighted beneath them in typeface. (See "Trainspotting"). Not a masterpiece, but a worthwhile and interesting look at three talents who were about to become huge.
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