A mentally unstable veteran works as a nighttime taxi driver in New York City, where the perceived decadence and sleaze fuels his urge for violent action, while attempting to liberate a twelve-year-old prostitute.
Robert De Niro,
A tale of greed, deception, money, power, and murder occur between two best friends: a mafia enforcer and a casino executive, compete against each other over a gambling empire, and over a fast living and fast loving socialite.
A group of professional bank robbers start to feel the heat from police when they unknowingly leave a clue at their latest heist, while both sides attempt to find balance between their personal and their professional lives.
Robert De Niro and Danny Aiello appeared in The Godfather: Part II (1974) and Mistress (1992). See more »
Noodles watches a 1967 telecast concerning the investigation revolving around Chairman Bailey (on a decidedly European-looking television set). Twice during the telecast, we see a cameraman with a portable video camera and an assistant with a portable videotape recorder. The very first Electronic News Gathering (ENG) equipment wasn't available in the US until at least 1971. See more »
[In 1933, two goons rudely question a young woman]
Where is he? Where's he hiding?
I don't know... I've been looking for him since yesterday.
[second goon slaps her harshly; she falls onto the bed]
I'm gonna ask you for the last time: Where is he?
I don't know... What are you gonna do to him?
[Two shots are heard]
[to his partner]
Stay here in case that rat shows up...
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I concede that the film is well made and quite intricate in its structure
(and that it takes time and patience to attempt to come up with an
explanation for the unfathomable gray areas in the screenplay). Leone
evidently had an eye for detail, composition, lighting and camera movement.
I am sure that no-one will deny that the technical side of the film was
handled with care and it does show.
The screenplay is a mess. I expect to be lambasted by angry fans that will
claim that I am an unimaginative watcher and would like all aspects of plot
and character explained to me instead of having to think and immerse myself.
Fine. I also know that art defies easy definition, and that all the best art
in the world offers itself up to multiple interpretations. Fine. I maintain
that Leone is being wilfully obscure in his attempts to cover up the
head-scratch-inducing narrative techniques that he conjures up. He does so
by claiming an opium/dream logic: some kind of remembrance of childhood and
prohibition (an immutable, fixed past) as well as a progressive imagining
(regarding the "future") on the part of the focaliser Noodles as he lies in
the opium den. This may not be the case as he could not possibly know of the
exact styles, decor and music of the sixties without having lived through
them to some extent. So here we have an organic problem with the screenplay:
claims to dream logic to confuse and inspire debate regarding the plot's
many unsure points (e.g. was that Max in the dumpster? How Why? What does
that wry smile at the end mean? Etc. Was it all a dream of the past and
possible future?) counterpoised with the impossibility of this evident in
the physical and cultural environment presented to us in the visuals. This,
to me, is just vague and sloppy. It is not just a case of great art being
unfathomable, it is a case of sloppy art trying to be unfathomable. Take
that incessant telephone sound and its related imagery. Did Leone himself
know what effect he was trying to achieve when he put it in there? I would
say yes in one respect: in order to mystify his audience. I do not think
that it stands for much more than that. Perhaps also to establish the
confusing and ultimately untenable nature of the film's time structure (he
is literally 'calling into the past') and it's relation to Noodle's 'dream'
(which the film quite clearly can not be).
Also, the film's attitude towards women is just plain nasty, containing two
of the screens most unapologetic rape scenes. We could claim that it is
merely the nasty attitude of our enigma focaliser Noodles. He most obviously
is not a very nice guy when it comes to women and the film does present
itself as an exploration of his singular consciousness (if it is a dream).
To put it crassly: he is nasty to women so the film has also got to be nasty
to women if it claims to be deeply related to his attitudes and point of
view. If it is a film of dream and imaginings, then certainly Noodle's dream
is mutable (as we know all dreams are) and what he 'does' to the characters
played by Tuesday Weld and Elisabeth McGovern is heightened by his desire
and imagination. This is the only way in which to explain why Tuesday Weld's
character seems to enjoy rape, that it is Noodles imagining her enjoying the
rape. This is vague, but it at least validates the epic romanticization that
pervades this ugly world (of which rape is only a part) when the main
character is an absolute lout: it is him who romanticizes it. This is a
sneaky way around a touchy subject. But, as has been established by many,
this world may not be a dream- back to that inconsistency in the plot. Is
it? Isn't it? If not then there is not much of an excuse for the rape
The dialogue is also slightly off, too often it sounds stiff and mechanical,
and it is too self-consciously scripted to sound like naturalistic street
parlance. Ennio Morricone's score is alright. It is evocative in places
(when he sticks to the minimalist piano melody) and far too saccharine in
others (that pan pipe stuff I find grating and kitsch).
So to be sure, it is a complex film. It is a rewarding film. It requires
more than one watching. It falls far short from a masterpiece, though. Too
inconsistent when it should be incisive. It bears the marks of a troubled
production and evidence of Leone himself not quite knowing what to do with
the beast he had created.
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