A small-time hood tries to keep the peace between his friend Johnny and Johnny's creditors.A small-time hood tries to keep the peace between his friend Johnny and Johnny's creditors.A small-time hood tries to keep the peace between his friend Johnny and Johnny's creditors.
It has been years since I saw this film and I noticed that I had last watched it before I started reviewing. As a result I watched it again yesterday to refresh my memory. Seeing it with older eyes is an impressive experience because I appreciate what Scorsese has gone on to do and found it fascinating to look back on this, one of his earliest films. The plot is a mash of characters and events that come together to create a sense of place that is convincingly done; the overall narrative focuses on Charlie, in particular where his relationships are taking him but this aspect ebbs and flows with the events. It is funny, violent, personal and engaging, only a few aspects come over as weak. The script flows like real dialogue, producing the different moods of each scene and also being memorable and rough.
The style and direction of the film are impressive and it is interesting to see the influence Scorsese had with this and his other films. The techniques employed here will ring bells with anyone who watches modern cinema and television with more than a passing interest, Sopranos in particular owes him a debt. Here we have the slow-motions, chest-mounted camera (I'm sure there is a proper name for it), impressive use of music and so on that we have come to be used to with Scorsese and one cannot help be impressed by how well developed these ideas were at an early stage in his career. Of course along with stylistic constants, several of the cast would become regulars. Keitel is the heart of the film for me and, although his opportunities in the script are surprisingly limited, I felt he did well with the themes handed to him. De Niro of course catches the eye more because of what was to come but also because he has the more energetic character. Robinson didn't make much of an impression on me but the support cast features early turns from faces such as Proval, Romanus, Argo and others.
Mean Streets might be a bit rough and ready when placed next to the polished films that Scorsese would go on to do but it does not take away from its strengths to look back at it. So much of Scorsese's style and calling cards are in place even at this early stage and his film convincingly creates the streets and characters of the place. The main players involved have done better films since this one but it is still strong, stylish and interesting and definitely worth a look for anyone who has since any other Scorsese films.
- bob the moo
- May 25, 2008