Mean Streets (1973) Review


Charlie a small time hood is trying to work his way up the ranks of a local mob in Little Italy NYC but his friendship with Johnny Boy is not helping him at all.


Charlie works for his Uncle Giovanni who is a powerful loan shark and fixer, collecting debts that are owed to him. He is having a secret affair with Teresa who he actually loves but is forbidden to actually see. So basically Charlie is not really in control of many things in his life. He does work hard though and in all honesty he actually comes across as a decent guy. That is not really something you expect considering his debt collecting work but it is very true. He strives to keep everyone happy and that goes with Johnny his friend, who again is not approved of by his Uncle.

His morals are tested throughout and trying to balance out his work and his catholic faith is something that he struggles with. Again though confirming that he actually wants to do things that are right. I guess sometimes though people don’t have a choice in the work they end up doing, especially when it comes to family. Something we are shown in film by Italian-Americans is a very important part of life and what is expected of them.

This is something we see a lot in Scorsese films and this is one of his first. I’m probably finding it hard to judge from the time and era it was released having seen his other films this one just lacked some of the intense magic in my personal opinion. It is certainly entertaining and watchable and mainly due to the stand out performance from Harvey Keitel (see more gushing about that below).

Mean Streets is the first film in which Robert De Niro worked with Martin Scorsese and I have to admit that I therefore thought it would then be De Niro’s film. That is far from the case, this film is very much owned and driven by Harvey Keitel and he is absolutely outstanding from start to finish! Something that really surprised me in the best possible way. I have seen a few of Keitel’s films and always been impressed but I think this is the oldest of them I have watched so far. I never actually realised how attractive he was and that was something that took me back a little bit! He was the heartbeat of the film, De Niro was the crazy kid and he did that very well again something very different from the legendary actor.

There’s no doubt about being able to tell that this is a Martin Scorsese film though it has that style with it and the dialogue I would expect from him.

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