Luckily, time has rescued ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, and itís now rightfully regarded as one of a kind. Sadly, it was Leoneís final film- but he went out on a masterpiece. I adore this film, and it remains not only one of Robert DeNiroís finest films, but also the career highlight of James Woods, who sadly, has never really been able to equal his performance here in recent years.
Despite the four hour running time, ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA never drags, despite being somewhat light on carnage. Itís just such a beautifully crafted story of betrayal and friendship that is one of the few films that youíll feel like you could just go on watching forever.
One of the things I always found interesting about it was the way Robert DeNiroís character can be a total SOB at times. Having spent most of his young life in jail, heís ill at ease with women. Early in the film, he casually rapes a bank teller- and later, he rapes the woman of his dreams, played by Elizabeth McGovern (and by a 14 year old Jennifer Connelly as a youngster), forever ruining whatever chance he had with her. One thingís for sure- ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA would never get made by a mainstream studio nowadays, which is a sad state indeed.