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Mean Streets
15Mean Streets (1973)

updated 15 January 2005
reviewer's rating
5 out of 5
Reviewed by Nev Pierce


Director
Martin Scorsese
Writer
Martin Scorsese
Mardik Martin
Stars
Harvey Keitel
Robert De Niro
David Proval
Amy Robinson
Richard Romanus
David Carradine
Length
107 minutes
Distributor
Blue Dolphin
Original
1973
Cinema
21 January 2005
Country
USA
Genre
Crime
Drama


The Godfather made the mob glamorous. Mean Streets made it real. Martin Scorsese's ferocious, grimy 1973 classic is just as good as Francis Ford Coppola's masterpiece, but it shows us criminal life lower down the food chain: the footsoldiers struggling to make a buck without getting shot up. Charlie (Harvey Keitel) is our anti-hero, a guilt-ridden hood trying to escape inner city New York. But his loyalty to the insane Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro) keeps dragging him back in...

If you've just seen the polished, polite The Aviator, Mean Streets may be something of a shock. Raw, passionate and aggressive, it was not Scorsese's first film, but it was the first where he was allowed free reign with the material and just enough money to make it. It was also the first time he worked with De Niro, who soon replaced Keitel (star of Scorsese's no-budget debut, Who's That Knocking At My Door?) as his preferred on-screen alter ego. But here, Keitel is Scorsese on screen: a young Italian American struggling with responsibility, guilt over sex, confusion over what God wants from him, and how to live a 'good' life.

"INTIMATE AND POWERFUL"

"You don't make up for your sins in church," says the opening voiceover, "You do it in the streets, you do it at home. The rest is bull**** and you know it." Scorsese has been trying to atone for his sins in cinema. But, as phenomenal a career as he's had, he's never again made a picture as intimate and powerful as this.

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