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112 of 126 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the most influential independent film
"Mean Streets," simply put, is the greatest independent film ever made. At the very least, it pioneered what modern audiences have come to associate with the best of indie cinema, and what, by the late '90s, has become so essential to our perception of so-called "hip" movies that the once daring and exhilarating techniques are now mostly used as...
Published on December 2, 1999 by vladb

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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great film, bad blu
Mean Streets is my favourite film. I've seen it over 30 times in all kinds of various incarnations - VHS, DVD, repertory cinema. It's a movie of urban cacophony - car horns, sirens, vintage rock and opera compete with gritty photography of `70s New York to create a thrilling and chaotic way of life. The best quality that I've ever seen of it was when I saw a specially...
Published 23 months ago by mojo_navigator


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112 of 126 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the most influential independent film, December 2, 1999
By 
vladb "vladb" (Brighton, MA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Mean Streets [VHS] (VHS Tape)
"Mean Streets," simply put, is the greatest independent film ever made. At the very least, it pioneered what modern audiences have come to associate with the best of indie cinema, and what, by the late '90s, has become so essential to our perception of so-called "hip" movies that the once daring and exhilarating techniques are now mostly used as frustrating cliches. The picture itself, made in 1973, is most famous for kick-starting three major careers. Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro later collaborated as a director/actor team on four more masterpieces: "Taxi Driver," "Raging Bull" "The King of Comedy" and "Goodfellas." Harvey Keitel, in the leading role, went on to play other memorable characters, like "Pulp Fiction"'s Mr. Wolf. Cast as Charlie , a small-time, young gangster in New York's Little Italy, Keitel struggles to make sense of his Catholic background and help his troubled friend (DeNiro) stay out of the powerful Mafia players' way. What seems to be a familiar scenario, used as far back as the classic Bogart/Cagney vehicles, gets an unusually complex treatment from Scorsese. A conventional, linear plot structure with big speeches and witty one-liners from main characters is abandoned for a grittier, naturalistic approach. The film consists of a series of telling episodes, related only through their participants. "Mean Streets" has much more in common with the works of Italian Neo-realism or French New Wave, rather than a typical gangster drama. Its unorthodox, original, yet unpretentious camera work gives the film an unprecedented vitality that young filmmakers have attempted to recreate for decades. Now commonplace shots, such as a subtitled introduction of a particular character, a fight sequence tracked through the four corners of a room in a single take, a swaying hand-held camera to create the sense of an alcohol-induced stupor, have all been popularized through this movie, a veritable Bible of dynamic cinematography. Another revolutionary aspect of "Mean Streets" is the virtual lack of a script. Most of the key scenes were almost fully improvised, thus sounding far more authentic than the old-style, theatrical delivery used in most American films up to that time. The actors' speech is so profanity-ridden that no screenwriter of the time could have possibly doctored anything even close. De Niro's flamboyant turn as a youth on the edge of sanity is unlike anything before. In fact,the swear-fests of later crime movies (and indie classics like "Clerks") owe a direct debt to his extraordinary performance as Johnny Boy. One of Scorcese's most groundbraking achievements was his incorporation of popular songs into the soundtrack. All of the icluded music originates elsewhere- Italian traditional recordings (Opera arias, Folk tunes) and for the most part, glorious, irresistable Rock'n'Roll of the early 60's (Motown, the Stones, Girl Groups, DooWop).The easily identifiable hits serve as atmospheric settings, adding an extra, personal dimension to any given scene. George Lucas' "American Graffiti", released in the same year, operated by the same principle, establishing a tradition that seems to expand with every coming year. As it is often the case with true independent cinema, "Mean Streets" was ignored at the box office, despite an underground acclaim which helped launch not only the great talents behind it, but an entire school of filmmaking.
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40 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scorsese's defining film is a must see., May 10, 1999
This review is from: Mean Streets [VHS] (VHS Tape)
If Mean Streets did nothing more than introduce Martin Scorsese, Robert de Niro and Harvey Keitel to the general filmgoing public (although not the first film for any of the three, it certainly was the first film to capture the attention of the critics and public), then it would still deserve to be considered one of the most important of all contemporary films. But the film is much more - it established the interwoven themes which Scorsese, perhaps the greatest living film-maker now that Stanley Kubrick has died, carries through virtually the entire spectrum of his work. See this film, and then watch Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas and see how a master director developed his craft. Even so, Mean Streets is arguably Scorsese's best film: because the style was so innovative, the rawness and violence of both the treatment of the subject matter and of the two lead performances perhaps had a greater impact than anything either the director or the actors have done since. De Niro's stunning performance as Johnny Boy takes on the proportions of a Greek tragic hero, moving steadily toward his violent and inevitable destiny. In one fell swoop he established himself as one of the greatest actors of his generation (and would go on with Scorsese to achieve his greatest triumph - Raging Bull). Keitel, a Scorsese regular from the latter's very first film (Who's That Knocking At My Door), has never been better.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Scorsese, August 22, 2004
By 
David Baldwin (Philadelphia,PA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Mean Streets (Special Edition) (DVD)
The first time I saw "Mean Streets" was on a double-bill with "Straw Dogs" at a repertory film house off the University of Pennsylvania in 1981. Now I can't put my put my finger on it but I had seen "Raging Bull" shortly before this but that film did not have the visceral impact on me that "Mean Streets" did. Where do you begin with this film? The dynamic soundtrack, the neighborhood ambiance, the great editing and cinematography. Primarily this film has two great characters in Harvey Keitel's "Charlie" and Robert DeNiro's "Johnny-Boy". They couldn't be more polar opposites. Charlie is essentially a moral man who tries to make peace with the immoral world in which he inhabits. Johnny-Boy is a loose cannon, oblivious to the choices that he makes, whose world could blow up in his face and he wouldn't have a clue. Charlie is misguided by feeling that he has to make some sort of penance in reigning in Johnny-Boy. Charlie doesn't realize how impossible this task is in the world he inhabits where order and chaos co-exist and order is enforced at the point of a gun. Both Keitel and DeNiro make dynamic entrances in this film even though they had previously appeared in more obscure films. One note about the commentary track on this special edition. A gripe I've had about previous editions of Scorsese films is that they lacked a commentary track, however, maybe I should have kept my peace. His commentary doesn't seem to be specific to the action on the screen and he speaks a lot of film-school arcana. It's intermittently interesting but not greatly so.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Charlie Likes Everybody. Everybody Likes Charlie.', June 22, 2002
This review is from: Mean Streets [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Ah yes..the film that started a collaboration for the books. 'Mean Streets' paired a young director and a young actor who shared the common goal of looking to get their big break.
Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro together for the first time.
This movie started a relationship that spans eight films and sparked creative genius from behind-the-camera as well as in front of the camera that has yet to be duplicated.
'Mean Streets' offers a little insight into a world that's both fascinating and dangerous, thanks to Scorsese's semi-autobiographical references he incorporated into this film.
Harvey Keitel plays a young Italian named Charlie. As Johnny-Boy so eloquently puts it, "Charlies likes everybody. Everybody likes Charlie." He struggles to live his life with some degree of normalcy, but immediately feels the pressures of his Little Italy neighborhood. He feels he has to save Johnny-Boy from a life of gambling and heavy debt, but when he can't, the climax begins to unfold. A far cry from his 'Sport' characterization in "Taxi Driver," Harvey Keitel gives a great and sympathy-evoking performance.
Robert De Niro plays Johnny-Boy, Charlie's childhood friend who's a bit unbalanced and a lot in debt. This role here offers a foreshadowing in the roles that good 'ol Bobby D. would later become famous for. ::Ahem:: 'Travis Bickle' in "Taxi Driver." Johnny-Boy is enjoyable, from his entrance into Charlie's bar right up to the climatic end (I'm not giving it away.)De Niro is astounding, and I'm not saying that just because he's my favorite actor on the face of this green earth. He's really captivating. It's extremely hard to take your eyes off of him because of his character's unpredicatability. All I could say when I finished watching this movie was.."WOW.."
If you're a Scorsese fan,get this film. If you're a De Niro fan, get this film. If you're both, get this film.
...If you want to see where genius comes from, get this film.
Oh yeah!! And keep you're eyes peeled for a cameo by Scorsese.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vintage Scorcese film foreshaddows an illustrious career, January 17, 2001
By 
R Kahn (Toronto, Ontario) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Mean Streets (DVD)
First off, I should say that this film is most enjoyable to watch. You really get a sense of what NY streets are all about. There is no intricate story here, however,the charactor development is exceptional. The viewer gets to know Tony (David Provol), Harvey Keitel and Deniro's (Johnny Boy)charactors. There is an underlying message of loyalty and friendship in the midst of a daily life struggle to make a buck. Scamming some teenagers out of $20.00 seems to be a highlight to a full day of running numbers and collecting on debts. There is a simplicity in this lifestyle that illustrates the precise mind set that these charactors have. There are shots in this film that certainly layed the groundwork for Goodfellas and Taxi Driver. Scorcese went on to make Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore just to escape a stereotype image of making hard core films. Thank someone for Scorcese's urge to get back to what he does best. If Mean Streets was a training ground for making films that would become many peoples top 10 fav's than it must be a film making blueprint that should not go under rated. By the way, I did notice some distortion in some of the audio tracks; like Be my Baby the film opener. Otherwise, the transfer is excellent; better than you would expect. In the scene where Keitel and Amy Robinson are walking down the hall way, there is some film dropout that is noticeable. Scorcese went to great lengths to remaster this film and re-released in theaters two years ago for a limited run. As DVD viewers we get to benefit from those efforts. This is a DVD worth owning, no question about it.
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23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One Of The Greatest Movies Of The 1970s, July 15, 2001
By 
Steven Kuroiwa (San Francisco, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Mean Streets [VHS] (VHS Tape)
I am a longtime fan of both Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro. Scorsese's "Mean Streets" is one of my alltime favorite crime movies.
Charlie(Harvey Keitel) is an up-and-coming hood in New York City's Little Italy. Charlie wants to save his half-wit best friend, Johnny Boy(Robert DeNiro), who is in deep debt to a loan shark. The ultimate result is tragedy.
Scorsese's "Mean Streets" is one of the greatest movies of the 1970s. "Mean Streets" was the first collaboration between DeNiro and Scorsese and also the film that brought both of them to national prominence. The story primarily focuses on Keitel's character, so I don't understand why DeNiro received top billing. The great performances by DeNiro and Keitel gave a hint to the stardom that would later be achieved by these two performers. Robert DeNiro may be the very last of the great movie actors. He is the ONLY present day actor who comes close to matching Marlon Brando for sheer talent and charisma. DeNiro completely immerses himself into the role of Johnny Boy. Scorsese also weaves strong themes of religion and redemption into his film. All of Scorsese's films are marked by intense realism. The low budget-"Mean Streets" has a strong grittiness that is sorely lacking in even Francis Ford Coppola's "Godfather" masterpieces.
I have already seen this movie six times and can stand to see it several times more. Well-recommended.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Believe the Naysayers - A True Classic, February 24, 2005
By 
This review is from: Mean Streets (Special Edition) (DVD)
Contrary to what many reviewers may say, this is one of Scorsese's greatest films. Along with Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, and Raging Bull, it best showcases his unique and original style of directing that has made him one of the most skillful in the business. It's an indie film classic, and creates an atmosphere and aesthetic that filmmakers have been trying to emulate ever since its release. That being said, it's just the sort of production that mainstream moviewatchers probably won't get. Those looking only for a predictable, clear-cut plot with a conventional style of storytelling and acting will be lost and frustrated with the improvisational nature of this movie. Taxi Driver and Goodfellas (equally as good as Mean Streets) were both hits at the box office, because they appeal more to the masses with their general entertainment value. Mean Streets, on the other hand, tells a somewhat dark, meandering story that at times may seem like it's going nowhere.

Martin Scorsese was able to create an intimate, realistic setting for his movie by encouraging actors to improvise certain scenes, and shooting long takes that make for flowing, realistically punctuated dialogue. Newer filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino have been heavily influenced by Scorsese's off-the-cuff manner of directing. Not every scene in Mean Streets makes immediate sense, because he often captures tidbits of the characters' lives that don't seem like they logically pertain to the plot. However, the plot itself in this movie is a nebulous entity, taking a back seat to the realistic dialogue and more pronounced themes of religion, friendship, and crime. There is a fair dose of black humor in this film, but it is ultimately more of a drama, due to the movie's dark ending, and emphasis on internal conflict with the characters, especially Harvey Keitel's excellently portrayed Charlie.

Another feat that Scorsese is accredited for in the direction of this movie is bringing two little-known actors to the forefront of Hollywood fame. The two main stars of the movie, Harvey Keitel and Robert DeNiro, now obvious household names, were nigh-unheard of talents prior to the release of this movie. Ever since Mean Streets, they slowly grew more and more famous, due in large part to their repeated roles in Martin Scorsese's future film classics (The Last Temptation of Christ, Goodfellas, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver). Scorsese can be given partial credit for bringing the actors' talents out for his films, but it should be noted that Keitel and DeNiro both deliver amazing performances in Mean Streets, not to mention their other Scorsese movies. Keitel's portrayel of Charlie's conflicted, devout Catholic gangster is spot-on, and DeNiro's Johnny Boy is amusing, fascinating and appropriately demands the viewer's empathy. Both stars help to raise this movie to its classic status.

Though not as easy or accessible as Scorsese's later work, Mean Steets established him as a creative, noir-influenced filmmaker with a deft eye for realism and intimacy. His movies are habitually more difficult than most mainstream fare, and may require repeat viewings to be truly appreciated. Mean Streets has a good chance of going straight over many viewer's heads, especially if they have had little experience with the art of independent film. Nevertheless, everyone who appreciates cinema should at least give Mean Streets a try, but it is a blatant fact that not everyone will enjoy it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Right where you breathe", January 13, 2006
This review is from: Mean Streets (Special Edition) (DVD)
This is as real and as gritty as movies get. You've got to appreciate the feel of the film, especially if you're from New York or a similar area, where characters like those in the movie are common. You've also got to appreciate the interplay between Keitel and De Niro throughout the film. Some of the supporting acting was a bit shotty, yet I believe this story was told to bring the realism of the streets to the silver screen rather than to impress people with Hollywood glitz.

Martin Scorsese draws upon his experiences growing up in Little Italy for the film's material and characters. There is a bonus featurette called "Back on the Block" in which Scorsese and friends speak about the inspiration and basis for the movie.

This movie began the very successful Scorsese/De Niro pairing that would continue long into the future. De Niro and Keitel are great in their roles - but De Niro stands out in this movie. You will be anticipating his appearances on screen throughout.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Independent Masterpiece that Showcased Scorsese's Talent!, July 31, 2000
By 
Bertin Ramirez "justareviewer" (San Ysidro, California United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Mean Streets [VHS] (VHS Tape)
One of Scorsese's earlier films but all his personal trademarks are here. Scorsese is a very talented and original filmmaker and his personal backdrop has always been evident in his films and this one particularly is personal filmmaking at it's best. A shocking, riveting and explosive tale of small time hoods in Little Italy. Harvey Keitel marked his second collaboration with Scorsese, he also starred in Scorsese's debut 1968's 'Who's that knocking at my door?' and would later reteam with him in 'Taxi Driver' and 'Last Temptation Of Christ'. Keitel is excellent as Charlie a guilt-stricken catholic who pays for his sins 'his own way'. DeNiro is nothing short of brilliant in the role of psychotic and reckless Johnny Boy. While the film is famous for having a minimal plot, it is still a fascinating character study. The plot has to do with Charlie aspiring to move up in his Mafia career but can't because of his friendship with Johnny Boy and love relationship with his epileptic cousin Teresa (Amy Robinson) whom the bosses think is 'crazy'. All the elements that would later become Scorsese's personal trademarks are here; an awesome rocking 60's soundtrack that seems perfectly appropriate, dizzying camerawork, voice-over narration, instantaneous mad bursts of violence, and of course DeNiro. Richly textured characters and innovative use of lightning. Scorsese would go on and make 'Taxi Driver', one of the best of all films, just 3 years later and if you look closely you may experience deja vu twice. Once with Keitel continuously putting his hand or finger under fire, so does Travis Bickle (DeNiro) in an unforgettable scene. While Charlie does it as some kind of penance, Travis only does it to pass the time or as part of his 'training'. The other element is that DeNiro is shot in the neck, same thing in Taxi Driver. An unforgettably gritty film that brought us the talents of Scorsese, DeNiro and Keitel, we must be thankful just for that reason. Extras: the gunman who shoots DeNiro is Scorsese himself. From a scale of 1-10 I give this film a 10!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Raw, vivacious, 'Mean Streets' delivers, September 27, 2004
This review is from: Mean Streets (Special Edition) (DVD)
When the term "gangster film" is brought up in a conversation, especially on university campuses, such motion pictures as "Carlito's Way," "Donnie Brasco," "The Godfather," "Road to Perdition," or even director Martin Scorsese's "Goodfellas" rocket to the fore. However, arguably the grittiest, most subtly vibrant take on the mob is naturally overlooked by college-aged viewers more familiar with mobster hits of the last 20 years.

Scorsese was relatively unknown in 1973, the year of the film's release. He served as associate director as well as head editor to the documentary "Woodstock" in 1970, but it wasn't until the outpouring of a semi-autobiographical tale set in the stark back alleys of New York's Little Italy that Scorsese acquired international critical acclaim. Not since "The Graduate" had a film so deftly interpolated popular tunes of the time into its core. Scorsese's crafty usage of The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, The Shirelles and The Ronettes acted almost as a subconscious voice of reason throughout.

"Mean Streets" is every bit a semi-autobiographical work. Born in New York in 1942, Scorsese moved with his parents to the Lower East Side when he was eight. An asthmatic youth, Scorsese spent a great deal of time either at the cinema or homebound peering out the window in observation of the neighborhood, fantasizing about the underworld goings-on of the fancifully cloaked gentlemen of Sicilian descent - otherwise known as the mafia.

At the age of 14, Scorsese was set on becoming a priest, only to be rejected by his college of choice and ultimately turn to a career in filmmaking. It is his strong affiliation with the Catholic church that seems to catapult his directorial flair to a category unto its own. Although brutal in nature, his films are marked with a profound underlying spiritual fiber, none more so than "Mean Streets."

Charlie Cappa, portrayed delectably by then-cinematic novice Harvey Keitel, bears a striking resemblance to Scorsese. Cappa is an ultra-christened tough guy. He devotes a portion of his existence to maintaining a watchful eye on the troublesome Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro), a smart-ass delinquent with outstanding debt around every nook.

Cappa exclaims while on the beachfront with Teresa, Johnny's cousin, "Who's going to help him if I don't? Nobody tries anymore - to help, that is. Saint Francis of Assisi had it all down. He knew. He knew."

His romantic interest, Teresa, is condemned as insane due to her epilepsy. Despite his dire attempts to right all wrong and keep the parables of Christ in his daily processes as a gangster, Cappa gets caught in the crossfire and encounters his own physical hell - although his essence remains intact. In an early voice-over, he not only explains this inner turmoil, but provides a contemplation on the film as a whole:

"Pain and hell has two sides - the kind you can touch with your hand, the kind you can feel in your heart, your soul, the spiritual side; and you know the worst of the two is the spiritual."
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Mean Streets (Special Edition)
Mean Streets (Special Edition) by Martin Scorsese (DVD - 2004)
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