mean streets

(1973)
With Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro, David Proval, Richard Romanus, Amy Robinson
Written and Directed by Martin Scorsese
Reviewed by JB

      Although not Martin Scorsese's first film, MEAN STREETS was the director's first major work, establishing him as a new alternative voice in American cinema.  The kinetic Scorsese style, embryonically displayed in the previous WHO'S THAT KNOCKING AT MY DOOR?, fully arrives here, as does actor Robert De Niro, who had been knocking around in Brian De Palma films before emerging as a star in 1973 in this film and BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY.  

      Following a young man's difficulties reconciling his Catholic upbringing with life on the streets, MEAN STREETS has very little plot but tons of memorable scenes and characters. As so often happens, Scorsese's characters - small time hoods - are not people you can really root for.  These wiseguys are amoral, self-centered and racist, nickel and diming each other daily in a never-ending game to live their lives in the fast lane without ever  putting in an honest day's work.  However, because Scorsese intimately knows how these street thugs live, think and breathe, and directs and edits the film with such amazing energy,  MEAN STREETS is still one of his most fascinating films.  Its final moments echo the classic ending of the Cagney vehicle THE ROARING TWENTIES. 4 - JB 

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