Saturday, September 14, 2013

564. Mean Streets (1973)

Running Time: 110 minutes
Directed By: Martin Scorsese
Written By: Martin Scorsese, Mardik Martin
Main Cast: Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro, David Proval, Amy Robinson, Richard Romanus
Click here to view the trailer


Just a quick programming note before we proceed with the "Mean Streets" review: I've just finished recording The Big Kahuna Burger podcast, where myself and Thomas, the host, talked in-depth about the new edition of THE BOOK. I'll let everyone know when the episode will be available for download and I hope you'll all go and hunt The Big Kahuna Burger podcast down on iTunes and give it a listen. I'll be joining them again soon for an episode entitled "Scorsese: Overrated or Not?". Now then, "Mean Streets"...

This was Scorsese's big, breakout picture, following "Who's That Knocking at My Door" and "Boxcar Bertha". The movie stars Harvey Keitel as Charlie Capp, a small-time, Italian-American who hopes to one day be a major player in the criminal underbelly of Little Italy. Charlie is normally surrounded by his partners in crime: the irresponsible Johnny Boy (De Niro), loan shark Michael (Romanus) and bar owner Tony (Proval). When the film begins, it is sort of told in vignette style, as Scorsese sets up the characters and their motives, showing us that they're wannabe big shots, who are in reality small timers. This is made clear when Michael and Tony take a couple of school age kids for $40 intended to be in exchange for fireworks. Let's just say they aren't mad when they realize the kids stiffed them and only paid $20. Charlie is also dating Johnny Boy's cousin, Teresa (Robinson), which Johnny Boy is oblivious to. Throughout the picture, there is a running story line with Johnny Boy owing money to Michael and Charlie playing the mediator.

So I've taken care of the two big boys ("Taxi Driver" and "Raging Bull") and now we're going to cover the other, four Scorsese films from THE BOOK. We kick it off with "Mean Streets" which is very obviously a personal piece from Martin Scorsese, as it's very obvious that Scorsese is inviting us into his own backyard, for a birds eye view of life growing up on the "mean streets", as viewed by the director. I've just watched "Taxi Driver" and "Raging Bull" two films that earn their praise when it comes to calling them classics, so going to "Mean Streets" next is of course going to make it harder on this movie to get into my good graces. I will say, however, that despite a barely there plot and amateur camerawork, the film isn't all that bad and works decently. It's not blow away great or anything, but maybe that's just me talking, with the fumes of TD and RB still filling my nostrils. It is a, as I said, a very personal project and therefore, perhaps, not entirely for us, but more for Scorsese filling his own needs, making the picture that he wanted and not the one that was necessarily going to appeal to the masses. It just so happened that it did appeal to many and therefore, labeled a "must see" by THE BOOK.

I've got to say that going from leading man De Niro to leading man Keitel was a bit of a jump though. De Niro earns his acclaim in "Taxi Driver" and "Raging Bull" and I just, for some reason, have a hard time buying Keitel as a leading man. He's good and all, I'd just rather be watching De Niro hammer zingers over the centerfield wall. If you're watching "Mean Streets" on its own merits, then it's a fine picture, a really good one even. But I'm pretty sure that watching the two Scorsese knockouts first, have made me think twice about giving "Mean Streets" the same high marks. It's just not as good a film, not as interesting a premise, doesn't feature as good of performances and is more of a personal piece, rather than a public piece.

RATING: 6.5/10  Sorry for the quick words ladies & gents, but I'm beat to a pulp tonight and ready to submit to the warm embraces of my bed. This is good though and as long as you watch it with a fresh eye, you might really enjoy it. I could see it growing on me.


September 14, 2013  12:57am


  1. I do not dislike martin Scorsese films
    I do not dislike martin Scorsese films
    I do not....

    I do not dislike Gangster movies as such
    I do not dislike gangster movies as such..

    But I did not like this one either. But I have an excuse.. this one I don't think is such a good film as the other two.

    But, again, I will recognise what is good. When you dislike a set of characters SO much, you have to say that the script and acting must have a lot going for them. I just waited for Johnny boy to be shot..

    Footnote - again about us v UK English. I can usually guess phrases I don't know.. but please, a translation / explanation of derevation of 'hammer zingers over the centrefold wall'

    1. "Hammer zingers over the centerfield wall" is a reference to baseball. Not sure if baseball is a thing over there or not? If so, then to "hammer zingers over the centerfield wall" is to hit a home run. Actually, I say "hit a home run" a lot when speaking of a great performance or a great movie.

  2. OK, thanks Andrew.. errr now explain home run. We really do not have baseball at all over here.
    No, sorry, I jest slightly with that comment.. I've seen enough American movies to have a 85% perception of what a home run is, at least as a metaphor

    1. Haha I was trying to think of how to explain home run to someone who doesn't know baseball. I didn't think baseball existed over there though.

    2. I would not be the first Brit to explain to an American .. Oh but we DO have Baseball here .. only we call it rounders, and 10, 11 year old girls play it...
      I just had to come back and check what I said to you about this film, as Amanda has just ;done it', and i repled. I live in dread of one day saying something on Amada's blog, then a dramaticaly different thing to you.
      (Amanda, you can recall be saying 'Cat people' was rubbish, but how I love Sound of Music don't you ?? Please say 'NO')

    3. I guess I never did explain "home run" either. A home run is when a batter hits a ball so hard that it goes over the wall, this rendering it unplayable by the opposing team and an automatic point (or points depending on how many runners are on base).

      Hope that helps....

      Also, I think the key phrase of that last comment is "Cat People Is rubbish". Glad we finally agree!

      just kidding!


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