Mean Streets Cover Life can be very funny at times, dear reader. One day you can be full of hope and passion. Whilst the next day you can be as empty as a politicians promises. But still. It could be a lot worse I suppose. You could also be one of the characters seen in this 107 minute movie made in 1973. It was Directed by Martin Scorsese: and Starred: Robert De Niro with Harvey Keitel. 

Mean Streets

God? Why does life always kick me straight in the face when I try my best to do right by those around me? Please lord. Please tell me why these things are happening to me? Is it because I help out my Uncle Giovanni (Cesare Danova) with his dubious business practices? Or is it because of the company I regularly keep?

Well, as you most probably know, me and my girlfriend Teresa (Amy Robinson) were recently spotted by her cousin and my close personal friend, Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro), who attempts to... to... to? Errr? Now wait a minute here! Let me back-track slightly. Cause I almost forgot to tell you about an integral part of my story. 

You see, if I'm being somewhat diplomatic, kind sir, I'd say Johnny Boy is a very chaotic character at heart, and he owes a lot money to nigh on everyone around town. Like me for instance: Charlie (Harvey Keitel). Our pal Tony: (David Proval) That owns the local bar. Plus some of my Uncle's mob contacts: Most notably, a mutual acquaintance named Michael (Richard Romanus), who keeps on pestering me to tell Johnny to give him back what he owes him. Worst still, now that Johnny knows about me and his cousin's secret relationship, he threatens to unveiling this fact to my Uncle, who he knows doesn't like the idea of us being together. 

Yeah. I'm in deep sh*t now, aren't I your holiness? Still. That's most probably why what next transpires turns into a right 'Mama-Luke' when friends ultimately clash. As mutual acquaintances slap each other about - now there's no need for anyone to scream or shout - an Italian festival is paraded in the dark - and at the end of the day, a car crash doesn't come with an adequate place to park.

As most of you most probably know, 'Mean Streets' was the film that kicked off the De Niro and Scorsese partnership of the last century. And boy-oh-boy, what a great partnership that truly was. Off the bat you can clearly see how Scorsese took this collaboration and ran with it till the cows came home. Literally scorching the screen with his seventies songs, personalized voice over narration, and slick camera work which he directed to its nth degree.

Honestly. The overall package is just a personally charming story to behold. Not only because it was loosely based on Scorsese's own life experiences. But in addition to this, he was also aptly aided by his eventual 'Raging Bull' co-writer, Mardik Martin.

Now from a cinematic perspective I feel that Keitel is the main protagonist in this piece. Mainly because he's the one who guide us through his contradictory lifestyle, as well as introducing us to his strange series of friends.

Mind you, Keitels character does have a very conflicted temperament. On the one hand he wants to be a good man, a righteous man, a loving man, and a religious man too. Whilst on the other hand there's the decadent people he befriends, the shady profession in which he reluctantly pursues, and then there is the ambiguous surroundings in which he lives in, highlighted by his romance with Amy's character.

To juxtapose Keitels role, though, De Niro plays his foil -- or patsy -- and shows a more darker and more deviant side of his own nature. Plus to reinforce this demonic stance, the story in itself does fly along at a very brisk pace. Setting up scenes, expanding situations, and basically laying down the ground work for which Scorsese continues to produce till this very day.

Heck! On a conceptual level I'd go so far as to say that 'Mean Streets' acts a primary tale to 'Goodfellas' and 'Casino' within the 'Scorsese Crime Trilogy'. Cause it seems to act a low level entry point for these later films to then be built upon. Now I'm not trying to imply anything negative here, dear reader,  if anything, this film feels more personal somehow, and has a much more congenial tone to it than some of Scorsese's latter efforts.

One of my favorite scenes in this film -- and sums this point up quite nicely -- is the scene in which Keitel tries to help De Niro out with his life, whist he's attempting to 'impress' a couple of 'nice lady's' in the process. The scene is very dynamic in its exposition and has a warmth to it that is both funny, realistic, earthly, and captivating at the same time. Here. Have a look for yourself and you can see why...

As you've most probably gathered by now I just love this movie. And in my most humble opinion it is one of the best human based crime dramas of it’s time. So before I shift off to pastures new, here, look at the filmic-facts. (1) 'Warner Bros' first screened this $500 thousand dollar production at the 'Chicago International Film Festival' on the 2nd of October, 1973, and eventually clawed back $3 million dollars at the box office. (2) Loosely translated, this project was entitled 'Cauldron' in Austria; 'The Street Without Mercy' in Denmark; and 'The Wolfs Nest' in Finland. (3) One of taglines used to promote this picture, was, 'You don't make up for your sins in church. You do it in the streets'. (4) The majority of this movie was shot on location throughout the two American states of New York and California. In California you might notice Hollywood Boulevard, plus numerous parts of Los Angeles. Whilst in New York you might notice Belmont, in the Bronx, Mulberry Street and the Old St Patrick's Cathedral, in Little Italy, plus 'Via Tutto' and 'NoLIta', in Manhattan. (5) When Martin Scorsese and Mardik Martin co-wrote this script in the sixties, originally they called it 'Season of The Witch'. However, when the notable film critic, Jay Cocks, suggested they change it to an old Raymond Chandler quote -- "Down these mean streets a man must go" -- eventually they agreed, even though they thought it was slightly pretentious. (6) Whilst he was trying to raise the money to make this movie, Martin Scorsese was offered a healthy sum by his one time mentor, Roger Corman, but only on the condition he'd shoot it with an all-black cast. Scorsese respectively declined. (7) In the scene where Harvey Keitel's character got drunk, you might like to know that the camera was actually strapped to his head while he was swaying about, and under-cranked to give it a wobbly feel. (8) It took twenty seven days to shoot the entirety of this movie, six of them where in New York whilst the rest were in Los Angeles because they couldn't afford to do it elsewhere. (9) Half of the budget went on the cost of the music heard throughout this film, originally sourced from Martins own personal record collection.

Overall I'd like to state for the record that 'Mean Streets' is a pure unadulterated classic. The story-line is as earthy as they come. The acting is out of this world. And the directing... well... what can I say about that? Nothing. It's been said for me already.

Nuff said.


MEAN STREETS MEAN STREETS Reviewed by David Andrews on June 17, 2014 Rating: 5
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