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Mean Streets (SE)
DVD disk
11 years ago By: Johnny Moreno
Mean Streets (SE) order
Director:
Martin Scorsese

Actors:
Robert De Niro
Harvey Keitel
Amy Robinson

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A young hood (Keitel) in New York's Little Italy contends with saving the neck of his hotheaded best friend (De Niro) from the local loan shark and struggles with the religious guilt prompted by his lifestyle.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
“You don’t make up for your sins in church. You do it on the streets, you do it at home. The rest is bullshit and you know it.”

So begins the opening of Scorsese’s MEAN STREETS, one of the finer moments in his career and sweet Jesus man, he has a ton of those. Is it a good movie? You mook, it’s a great f*cking movie. For a young feature film director just starting out, MEAN STREETS is an outstanding accomplishment. It’s full of great shots, laughs, violence; a brief glimpse into what it was like in the early 70’s to be a small time hood. An aspiring hood. Scorsese would go on to tackle (and completely conquer) similar ground in GOODFELLAS and CASINO, but MEAN STREETS is something different. It’s a more magnified look at the lower level hoods, the foot soldiers if you will. In GOODFELLAS, we saw Henry Hill go from an aspiring hood to being one of the “masterminds” (depending on who you ask) who pulled off the biggest robbery in history. CASINO, De Niro’s character Ace was an already established wiseguy. He just became huge in the casino industry and we all know how that turned out.

But mostly what MEAN STREETS is full of is questions. Keitel’s Charlie is full of questions. Questions of faith, religion, morality, loyalty, all that shite. Like that Twisted Sister video from back in the day, “What are you gonna do with your life?!” That’s Charlie right there. Charlie’s a good egg, Charlie once wanted to be a priest and he goes into a story about how disappointed and let down he was when he found out the church lied to him (dry it up Charlie you got off light, they repeatedly yanked my wang. Repeatedly!). And despite his having ambitions to be like his wiseguy uncle, Charlie can’t seem to fully devote himself to the lifestyle, not to mention his pain in the ass (and a nicely shaped ass at that) girlfriend who constantly pesters him to go the straight and narrow and move away, out of New York so they could start fresh (even back then girlfriends were always trying to take you away from the guys).

Then there’s my name sake, Johnny Boy, played to psychopathic perfection by Roberto De Niro. I swear to God, De Niro approaches this role with such intense ferocity, its easy to see why the studios thought he was an actual whack job when this was originally screened for execs. And of course, Scorsese’s use of music in certain scenes is nothing short of friggin genius. Even at this early a stage in his career, the man knew how, why and when to use music. From The Ronetts’ “Be My Baby” to The Marvelletes’ “Please Mr. Postman” in the brilliant two minute steady cam shot of a pool house brawl in which De Niro goes completely ape shit, to the Rolling Stones’ “Jumping Jack Flash”, the single most bad ass shot of De Niro ever filmed. Oh, except for “Sunshine of Your Love” in GOODFELLAS. That was pretty bomb.
THE EXTRAS
Audio Commentary with Martin Scorsese and Amy Robinson: This, like the GOODFELLAS Special Edition commentary track, runs through scenes with Scorsese and Robinson, separately, then forwards itself to the next scene that runs with commentary. Freaked me out the first time, I thought disc was skipping. Amy Robinson plays Charlie’s epileptic girlfriend Theresa in the film, and mostly talks about growing up in New York and New Jersey and getting connected with Scorsese as he was casting for the film. While Scorsese goes on about growing up in New York, the people he grew up with, situations around the neighborhood that happened. That kind of fun, fun stuff. It’s great to hear Scorsese reminisce about his childhood, the influences people and films and music has had on him and how Francis Ford Coppola loaned him money for the festival that allowed him to film for a small fee. Can you say shakedown? I was bummed that Marty didn’t really talk specifically about each scene but hey, he’s Martin friggin Scorsese, he could’ve read from Oprah’s magazine and I would’ve been happy.

Back on the Block: This is a featurette of a very young Scorsese as he discusses the genesis of what brought about MEAN STREETS and the friends that inspired it. Not bad stuff. Dated, but not bad.

Theatrical Trailer.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Buy this! I’m telling you right now, you’ll love it, or my name’s not Indiana Sev (huh?). You’ll see a young Keitel, a young hotheaded De Niro and if you look very close, you’ll even notice Scorsese in a couple of scenes. And if you’re really good, you’ll see that the actor playing Michael is the brother of the actor who played “Damone” from FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH. Buy it, watch it and call your friends a “mook” and laugh when they don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. Then go home and get your f*cking shine box!
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