Friday, July 5, 2013

Mean Streets

Charlie (Harvey Keitel) is a guilt ridden youth poised to inherit a restaurant from his uncle's protection racket and shamed by his family for his involvement with an epileptic girl he is in love with. He carouses Little Italy with his friends, other low-rent, bottom level gangsters, and fights for the life of Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro), his out of control boyhood pal whose dangerous antics place him more and more beyond redemption. Mean Streets was Martin Scorsese's breakthrough film, a semi-autobiographical sequel of sorts to his debut Who's That Knocking at My Door, and it is every bit as worthy as any of his subsequent masterpieces. Filmed in a world he is intimately familiar with, the film has an independent, impromptu feel although it is clearly the result of careful preparation (watch the extraordinary barroom brawl sequence for a prime example from this). The film, with the simultaneous release of Bang the Drum Slowly also marked the introduction of De Niro, who is memorably volatile here, but the film also features a remarkable lead performance from Keitel, which seems to get surprisingly overlooked during discussions of the movie.