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Mean Streets (1973)

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A small-time hood aspires to work his way up the ranks of a local mob.

Director:

Martin Scorsese

Writers:

Martin Scorsese (screenplay), Mardik Martin (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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2,856 ( 59)
5 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Robert De Niro ... Johnny Boy
Harvey Keitel ... Charlie
David Proval ... Tony
Amy Robinson Amy Robinson ... Teresa
Richard Romanus ... Michael
Cesare Danova ... Giovanni
Victor Argo ... Mario
George Memmoli ... Joey
Lenny Scaletta Lenny Scaletta ... Jimmy
Jeannie Bell ... Diane
Murray Moston Murray Moston ... Oscar (as Murray Mosten)
David Carradine ... Drunk
Robert Carradine ... Boy With Gun
Lois Walden Lois Walden ... Jewish Girl
Harry Northup ... Soldier
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Storyline

The future is set for Tony and Michael - owning a neighbourhood 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. Written by Dave Cook <cookd@mcmail.cis.mcmaster.ca>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Go to church on Sunday. Go to hell on Monday. See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Thriller

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Italian

Release Date:

14 October 1973 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Season of the Witch See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$32,645, 15 March 1998, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$3,132,645
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Technicolor) (uncredited)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Francis Ford Coppola contributed money to the budget of the film. See more »

Goofs

As Teresa is getting out of bed when she is with Charlie, in one shot the blanket covering her is pulled off nearly completely, yet in the next shot it covers her again, before being pulled off once again. See more »

Quotes

Joey 'Clams' Scala: [the cops have broken up the fight, taken a bribe, and left the bar] This is the drink we never had before.
See more »

Alternate Versions

NBC edited 10 minutes from this film for its 1977 network television premiere. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Twin Town (1997) See more »

Soundtracks

Canta Per' Me
By Giuseppe Di Stefano (as Guiseppe de Stefano)
Courtesy of DECCA Records
See more »

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User Reviews

Quintessential early Scorsese, and one of De Niro's most convincing and varied roles.
23 September 2004 | by MovieAddict2016See all my reviews

The first time that Robert De Niro appears up-close in Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets is to the tune of the Rolling Stones' Jumpin' Jack Flash. It's from this point forward that the movie leaves the realm of being a 'good film' and becomes 'one of the greatest films of all time.' Simply put, the energy of Mean Streets is fantastic. De Niro's flamboyant entrance is one of many iconic moments in the film, which has influenced just about every crime film made since – for good reason.

And yet ironically Mean Streets is rarely acknowledged as the masterpiece that it is, perhaps because a number of people actually forget about it. Everyone remembers Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and GoodFellas in particular, but Scorsese's breakthrough remains one of his most important and honest pieces of work, given little recognition apart from the praise by movie critics who do remember it.

Harvey Keitel, giving one of his most realistic and three-dimensional performances of all-time, plays the lonely and worried Charlie, a 20-something New York City Catholic who is haunted by his friend, Johnny Boy (De Niro), the local loner who has to jump off the sides of streets in order to dodge the local Mafia thugs he owes money to.

Mean Streets has been accused of lacking a point, and one critic calls it 'too real,' but I'd take this over most recent films any day of the week. Mean Streets doesn't have a dynamic arc like most motion pictures do – sure, there's the rising action leading up to the climax, but it doesn't move from one frame to another trying to figure out the easiest way to end the movie while managing to stress all its points in such a manner so blatant that a four-year-old could pick up the themes.

It respects its audience enough to study its characters in such a way that they are given ten times as much depth as those seen in modern films released through Hollywood. As Johnny Boy, De Niro paints the ultimate portrait of a typical street loner – a dumb kid who 'borrows money from everyone and never pays them back.' Charlie, much smarter and wiser, takes Johnny under his wing and tries to help him get a job, so that he can pay back what he owes to a local kingpin. However, Johnny is so irresponsible and stupid that he doesn't show up for work and begins fighting with the mob – leading up to an inescapable conclusion that features some very ancient themes colliding together. It's the classic tale of redemption and escaping one's past, and if the film has a point it is that some people can't change and you'll get what's coming to you, even if you've got other people helping you out.

The film does have its technical flaws, such as poor dubbing, inconsistency, and the occasional goof. It's a raw movie, filmed on a low budget by a young and far more naïve Martin Scorsese. But all his typical elements are in place, to be expanded upon later in his career.

Keitel and De Niro are superb, particularly De Niro who shows great range very early on in his career. Almost unrecognizable in shabby clothing, hats and a scrawny figure to boot, this is a role that would typically be more suitable for Christopher Walken or other charismatic character actors – but De Niro pulls off the role with intense talent, proving once again that he can handle any type of role. He's known for his psychotic roles, but in Mean Streets, he plays the opposite of Travis Bickle. Johnny Boy isn't unstable or psychopathic – he's just wild and stupid.

Keitel channels all the thoughtful consciousness of an older child, considering Johnny Boy to be a brother of sorts. He feels that if he fails Johnny, he will somehow fail himself.

Mean Streets is a careful character study that never resorts to cardboard cutout caricatures or the standard clichés of the genre. Dialogue does not exist to move action forward towards the next adrenaline-packed sequence; Mean Streets focuses on its inhabitants with such strong emotional power that it's impossible not to be caught up in its grasp. A true classic from start to finish, and undeniably a very moving film.


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