Mean Streets of Little Italy: Watch 'Mean Streets (1973)' Online

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Summary of Mean Streets

"Mean Streets" is an American crime film released in 1973, directed by Martin Scorsese, co-written with Mardik Martin, and featuring Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro in the lead roles. This film marked the inaugural collaboration between Scorsese and De Niro, signifying not only their first joint effort but also Scorsese's initial critical and commercial triumph. Premiering at the New York Film Festival on October 2, 1973, the movie set the stage for a prolific partnership that spanned several decades.

The film made its debut at the New York Film Festival on October 2, 1973, followed by its official release on October 14. De Niro's portrayal of "Johnny Boy" Civello earned him accolades, winning the Best Supporting Actor awards from the National Society of Film Critics and the New York Film Critics Circle. This recognition not only catapulted De Niro into the spotlight but also laid the foundation for his illustrious career. The success of the film went beyond mere commercial triumph, injecting new vigor into Scorsese's professional trajectory.

In 1997, "Mean Streets" was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, acknowledging its cultural, historical, and aesthetic significance. This film not only marked the initiation of a prolific collaboration between two cinematic giants but also unveiled Scorsese's distinctive directorial style, solidifying his position in the film industry. Its inclusion in the National Film Registry underscores its unique status in cinematic history, providing a valuable reference for both audiences and future filmmakers. Beyond being a commercially successful work, "Mean Streets" stands as a compelling and profound artistic achievement.

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Mean Streets (1973) Plot

In the vibrant backdrop of New York City’s Little Italy, the tale of our protagonist, Charlie Cappa, unfolds against a tapestry of passion and intricate relationships. Charlie grapples with a profound sense of responsibility, navigating the reckless behavior of his friend, Johnny Boy, and managing a clandestine affair with Johnny’s cousin, Teresa. This internal conflict lays the emotional foundation for our captivating story.

The narrative delves into Charlie’s predicament, exploring the complexities of his relationship with Johnny Boy, strained by Johnny’s gambling and debts. Simultaneously, Charlie maintains a secretive bond with Teresa, who faces societal ostracism due to her epilepsy. Charlie finds himself torn between the tenets of his Catholic faith and the clandestine dealings within the Mafia, attempting to strike a delicate balance between two divergent worlds.

As the story unfolds, Johnny Boy’s self-destructive tendencies escalate, leading to confrontations with Mafia-affiliated creditors. Charlie endeavors to protect Johnny through negotiations with Michael at Tony’s bar, yet the negotiation exposes fractures in Johnny’s trust for Charlie, culminating in a tense conflict. The narrative reaches its climax with a suspenseful gunfight and a car crash, leaving Charlie and Teresa injured, while Johnny’s fate remains shrouded in uncertainty, casting a lingering suspense over the entire storyline.

The conclusion paints a chaotic tableau—Charlie and Teresa wounded in the crash, Johnny’s destiny an enigma. This resolution not only piques the reader’s curiosity but also provides ample space for contemplation on the deeper themes of the narrative. The unresolved conflicts within Charlie, pertaining to family, religion, and Mafia responsibilities, leave the audience with an open-ended question.

Mean Streets (1973) Cast

  • Harvey Keitel as Charlie Cappa
  • Robert De Niro as John “Johnny Boy” Civello
  • David Proval as Tony DeVienazo
  • Amy Robinson as Teresa Ronchelli
  • Victor Argo as Mario
  • Richard Romanus as Michael Longo
  • Cesare Danova as Giovanni Cappa
  • George Memmoli as Joey
  • Jeannie Bell as Diane
  • Harry Northup as Soldier
  • David Carradine as Drunk
  • Martin Scorsese as Jimmy Shorts

Mean Streets (1973) Review

Raw, heartrending, and hilarious – that’s Mean Streets in a nutshell, a true gem from the early days of Martin Scorsese’s career, featuring the incredible talents of Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro. This film served as a premonition of their later collective masterpiece, Taxi Driver, but personally, I find Mean Streets even more captivating with its brilliant blend of humor and everyday life. While it lacks the gloom of Taxi Driver, we can’t ignore the fact that De Niro’s character, Johnny Boy, is heading straight for disaster.

Much like Fassbinder’s Katzelmacher, Mean Streets seems like a movie about nothing in particular, focusing on the daily lives of a group of young hoodlums and fixers in New York’s Little Italy. These guys are in their twenties, always scheming and dreaming of being the coolest and most successful around, even if it means collecting debts and getting into trouble. Their lives may seem pointless and reckless, but there’s a certain charm and humor in their absurd existence.

Now, don’t get too caught up in the criminal affairs they’re involved in. Instead, sit back and enjoy the hilarious stories Johnny Boy shares with Charlie (Keitel), laugh at their carefree actions and brawls, and immerse yourself in the para-documentary glimpses of Little Italy. Scorsese captures the essence of this gritty neighborhood with its sleazy bars, pathetic mafiosos, and religious processions accompanied by old amateur musicians playing “Faccetta Nera,” a song with a controversial history.

Harvey Keitel’s performance is top-notch, and Robert De Niro’s acting is nothing short of superb. Scorsese’s directing style is truly innovative, creating an unforgettable experience. Now, fair warning, some viewers might find aspects of the film misogynistic, but it’s essential to remember the context of the late 1960s/early ’70s – a conservative and corrupt ethnic district filled with narrow-minded machos. So, while recognizing it as an excellent movie, it also serves as a valuable document of its era, capturing a unique time and place in American cinema history.

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