Mean Streets (1973) Plot
Meet Charlie Cappa, a tough Italian-American guy trying to survive on the wild and mean streets of New York City’s Little Italy. He’s got this friend, John “Johnny Boy” Civello, who’s always getting into trouble with loan sharks and living life on the edge. Oh, and there’s this little secret between Charlie and Johnny’s cousin, Teresa – they’re having a secret affair. But it’s not all rainbows and sunshine because Teresa’s got epilepsy, and people treat her differently because of it. Especially Charlie’s Uncle Giovanni, who happens to be a powerful mafioso, and he’s not happy about this whole situation.
So, here’s the deal: Charlie’s got two sides battling inside him like a classic movie showdown. On one hand, he’s a devout Catholic, trying to do the right thing, but on the other, he’s knee-deep in shady Mafia business for Uncle Giovanni. Talk about conflicting paths! And, of course, Giovanni wants Charlie to ditch Johnny and hang out with the “honorable men.” Easier said than done, right?
Things get real intense when a loan shark named Michael shows up, looking to collect from Johnny. But Johnny, being his reckless self, decides to stir the pot and insults Michael. Drama alert! Johnny pulls out a gun, and it’s like a Mexican standoff in the middle of a bar. Luckily, they all manage to leave the scene before things escalate further.
So, what do you do when you’re in hot water? You hit the road! Charlie, Johnny, and Teresa jump into a borrowed car, thinking they can escape the chaos. But guess what? There’s always someone lurking in the shadows on the mean streets. Michael and his henchman Jimmy are tailing them! Shots are fired, the car crashes into a fire hydrant – talk about a crazy car chase! Teresa gets hurt, and both Charlie and Johnny are hit. It’s a total mess.
The scene is like something out of a suspenseful thriller. Johnny’s staggering towards a mysterious white light, which turns out to be a police car! Yikes! And Charlie’s bleeding and dazed, kneeling beside the spurting hydrant. The paramedics rush in to save Teresa and Charlie, but what about Johnny? Nobody knows what happens to him.
In the end, it’s a gripping tale of friendship, loyalty, and dangerous choices on the mean streets. Charlie’s life is hanging by a thread, and he’s forced to confront the consequences of his actions. Will he find redemption or spiral further into the chaos of the city? You better buckle up because this rollercoaster ride of emotions will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end!
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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