Mean Streets (1973)

Today Martin Scorsese is one of the most respected grandmasters in cinema history. He has been making films for over 50 years now and still regularly produces top-class films. Among his early works, from the time before Taxi Driver, Mean Streets stands out. It is the film Scorsese wanted to make from the very beginning. The director takes us to the New York district of his childhood. If Fellini can make a film about himself and his friends in Rimini, then he can make it about Elizabeth Street, Scorsese claims. Only Scorsese grew up in a rough area where violence and crime were the order of the day. “Little Sicily,” as he calls it, in New York City. The characters wear fancy suits and hang around in dubious, often red lit bars. They scatter through the streets at night and go to the movies. They are little gangsters who regard themselves to be bigger than they are. They don’t have the structure, discipline, wisdom and serenity of a Vito Corleone. Mean Streets does not glorify their lives. The violence erupts as suddenly and senselessly as it does in reality. Charlie, the main character, tries to intervene: “We are friends… What’s wrong with you guys?”. They fight anyway. Charlie (Harvey Keitel) is the reasonable one. He feels responsible for Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro), the biggest chaotic and good-for-nothing guy in the area, with whose sister he has a secret relationship. But even Charlie is a sinner. His inclination to the church finds only derision in his surrounding society. Scorsese’s direction is as raw, direct and energetic as the world he introduces. Mean Streets is a personal, honest, semi-autobiographical and rough insight into the youth of one of the great American film directors.

Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro, David Proval, Amy Robinson, Richard Romanus, Cesare Danova
Genre: Crime, Drama
Rated: R
Runtime: 112 min.
Release Date: 1973/10/14
Screenplay: Martin Scorsese, Mardik Martin
Editor: Sidney Levin
Cinematography: Kent L. Wakeford
Budget: $0.5 million