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Mean Streets

Review #7 - Mean Streets:
(Martin Scorsese, 1973)

Mean Streets was Scorsese’s first major feature, it stars Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro as two small town gangsters, one who’s fairly organised with his life and goals, and the other completely off the handle. Mean Streets ranked #13 on my 100s list, so I do love it.

Mean Streets has not much of a plot like most Scorsese films, in a fly’s perspective we just follow these criminals about their daily shenanigans. The dialogue matches the personas of the characters perfectly, you really get the sense of who’s who right from the get-go, Johnny Boy is the a-hole, Charlie is the nice guy (well as nice as you can get in such a film), Tony is the idiot and Michael is the authority. Robert De Niro is often regarded as MVP for his performance as the hotheaded Johnny Boy, but Harvey Keitel is nothing to snuff at, he’s really calm and constrained in this film, completely unlike him. It’s a shame his career become somewhat of a secondary guy, he’s definitely capable of leading as per his performance in here.

There’s quite a bit of humour in Mean Streets, the way guys talk to each other is funny and the dialogue is basically dumb but fun. “What’s a mook?”

Mean Streets reminded me a lot of Quentin Tarantino’s films, specifically Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. I can see Reservoir Dogs as a Mean Streets 2.0, not for its premise and anything story-wise but rather filmmaking-wise - lack of plot, dialogue, happens over the course of a few days or day, Harvey Kietel, not one main character etc.

Mean Streets tends to fall victim to underrating, I commonly see users post Martin Scorsese’s defining films as Goodfellas/Taxi Driver/Raging Bull but Mean Streets deserves a spot in that category, if only for it being his first major feature.