Mean Streets

Mean Streets

4.5 8
Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, David Proval


View All Available Formats & Editions

"You don't make up for your sins in church; you do it in the streets; you do it at home. The rest is bulls--t, and you know it." Returning to the autobiographical milieu of his 1968 debut Who's That Knocking at My Door? for his third feature, Martin Scorsese examined the daily struggles of a wannabe hood to keep his morals straight on the streets of Little…  See more details below


"You don't make up for your sins in church; you do it in the streets; you do it at home. The rest is bulls--t, and you know it." Returning to the autobiographical milieu of his 1968 debut Who's That Knocking at My Door? for his third feature, Martin Scorsese examined the daily struggles of a wannabe hood to keep his morals straight on the streets of Little Italy. Driven equally by his wish to become a respectable gangster like his uncle (Cesare Danova) and his desire to live his life like St. Francis, Charlie (Harvey Keitel) takes on his energetically unhinged friend Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro) as his own personal penance, intervening to get Johnny Boy to pay off a debt to the local loan shark Michael (Richard Romanus). Despite his promises to his epileptic girlfriend Teresa (Amy Robinson) that they will move out of Little Italy once he strengthens his position in his uncle's world, Charlie's involvement with Johnny Boy further ensnares him in the neighborhood. When Johnny Boy decides to mouth off to Michael rather than pay him, Charlie, Johnny Boy, and Teresa try to flee Michael's murderous anger (and an assassin played by Scorsese), forcing Charlie to realize that the rules of the streets do not mesh with absolution. Whereas fellow "film school generation" director Francis Ford Coppola transformed the Hollywood gangster movie into metaphorical epics about the Mafia and capitalism in The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather Part II (1974), Scorsese revised the genre in the opposite direction, focusing on the gritty minutiae of daily life and drawing from personal memory. Combining documentary-style realism (even though most of the film was shot in L.A.); kinetic editing and camera movement; and expressionistic lighting, angles, and film speed, Scorsese presents an intimate picture of the trivial incidents and latent violence of Charlie's and Johnny Boy's world, naturalistically unfolding their experiences rather than simply explaining what motivates them. They lead a claustrophobic, petty existence that Scorsese and screenwriter Mardik Martin witnessed growing up in Little Italy, complete with a soundtrack of hit songs like "Be My Baby" and "Jumping Jack Flash" that had poured out of neighborhood radios. Mean Streets opened at the New York Film Festival to excellent notices and played strongly in New York but failed to duplicate that level of business elsewhere. Even so, Mean Streets established Scorsese and De Niro as formidable young talents and marked the beginning of a long-running and fertile collaboration that continued in such films as Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), The King of Comedy (1983), and Goodfellas (1990). Scorsese's exceptional grasp of the texture of day-to-day life, the rhythm and cadences of street talk, and cinema's visual and aural possibilities makes Mean Streets one of the pivotal films of the 1970s, as well as of Scorsese's career, and an influence on such future filmmakers as Spike Lee and Quentin Tarantino, among many others.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Andreas Killen
One of the movies that defined American cinema of the 1970s, Mean Streets helped pave the way for independent filmmaking as we know it today. Martin Scorsese's 1973 release proved that there was an audience for realistic, character-driven films built around dark, complex characters. It is also the film that teamed Martin Scorsese, Harvey Keitel, and Robert De Niro for the first time. Set within the gritty milieu of New York's Little Italy, where the film was mostly shot, Mean Streets examines the strained friendship between two wiseguys, Charlie (Keitel) and Johnny Boy (De Niro). It's 1971, and their tight-knit community is also under strain as the world outside -- gays, blacks, drugs, Vietnam -- bears down on it. De Niro's portrayal of the volatile Johnny Boy made him a star, but it is Keitel's performance -- one of the finest of his career -- that carries the film. As an aspiring priest turned mobster, Keitel movingly conveys Charlie's conflicted Catholicism as he struggles to save his self-destructive buddy. Stripped down and brutal, this is nevertheless a beautiful, at times poetic, film that remains one of Scorsese's most personal works -- and one of his best.
All Movie Guide - Mark Deming
Mean Streets was not Martin Scorsese's first film, but it was the first one that really mattered, an alternately troubling and exhilarating look at one man's obsessions and at a subculture that other movies rarely examine beneath the surface. Scorsese's fascination with sin, redemption, guilt, and crime first bore real fruit in Mean Streets, and in many ways Charlie (Harvey Keitel) is the ultimate Scorsese character: a sincere Catholic who, as a low-level gangster, has chosen to live outside the laws of God and Man, and who tries to find a penance and personal moral code that will mean something to him. Charlie's inner turmoil underscores the film's every movement, as his loyalties are torn among the church, his boss Giovanni (Cesare Danova), his irresponsible best friend Johnny Boy (Robert DeNiro), and his epileptic girlfriend Teresa (Amy Robinson). Meanwhile, Scorsese and his camera revel in the details of Charlie's world, finding a dizzying excitement and strange beauty in the violence, drunkenness, and intrigue of life along the criminal margins. Charlie seems to have one foot in the present and the other in turn-of-the-century Sicily, and the soundtrack, which combines the rickety Italian folk melodies of the Feast of Gennaro with classic jukebox rock-and-roll (drawn from records in Scorsese's own collection, complete with scratches), plays this duality for all it's worth. Mean Streets is packed with superb performances (it made Keitel and DeNiro major names overnight, and deservedly so) and remarkable moments that stick in the memory long after the film is over: the drunken welcome home party, the fight in the pool hall, Johnny Boy's strange little dance while Charlie is trying to get him out of town. If Scorsese's first two films were about refining his ideas and learning his craft, Mean Streets was where he first put the pieces together properly, and the result was the first great work from one of the most important filmmakers of his generation.

Read More

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Warner Home Video
Sales rank:

Special Features

Commentary by Director Martin Scorsese, Mardik Martin and Amy Robinson; Vintage Featurette Back on the Block

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Robert De Niro Johnny Boy
Harvey Keitel Charlie
David Proval Tony
Amy Robinson Teresa
Richard Romanus Michael
Cesare Danova Giovanni
Julie Andelman Girl at Party
Murray Moston Oscar
Catherine Scorsese Woman on the Landing
Victor Argo Mario
George Memmoli Joey Catucci
Lenny Scaletta Jimmy
Jeanie Bell Diane
David Carradine Drunk
Robert Carradine Young Assassin
Lois Walden Jewish girl
Harry Northrup Vietnam Veteran
Dino Seragusa Old man
D'Mitch Davis Black Cop
Peter Fain George
Robert Wilder Benton
Ken Sinclair Sammy
Jaime Alba Young Boy #1
Martin Scorsese Car Gunman (uncredited)

Technical Credits
Martin Scorsese Director,Screenwriter
Eric Clapton Songwriter
Glen Glenn Sound/Sound Designer
Don Johnson Sound/Sound Designer
Sid Levin Editor
Mardik Martin Screenwriter
David Nichols Production Designer
E. Lee Perry Executive Producer
Paul Rapp Production Manager
Jonathan Taplin Producer
Russell Vreeland Asst. Director
Kent Wakeford Cinematographer

Read More


Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Mean Streets 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Martin Scorsese's truly great films have all had a personal touch to them. One only has to look at films like "Mean Streets" (1973), "Taxi Driver" (1976) and "Raging Bull" (1980) to see a real vitality and energy to the action on-screen. It is these early films that convey a real sense of someone intensely in love with film--which may be due in part to the fact that Scorsese and his cast and crew were just beginning their film careers. "Mean Streets", in particular, is a visceral, intimate experience that is just potent today as it was when it first came out. "Mean Streets" takes the notion of the American success story and reduces it to almost nothing. The characters that inhabit this film are small-time hustlers and punks with no real direction in life and no future. Set in the "Little Italy" neighborhood of New York City, we are introduced to most of the main characters in the opening moments of the film. Each one is given his own little scene in order to showcase his distinct character-defining obsession. Charlie (Harvey Kietel) is torn between two worlds: the static isolation of his uncle's environment and the constricting chaos of Johnny Boy's (Robert De Niro) lifestyle. He must make a choice between the two, while trying to exist in both. Conflict occurs when these two worlds inevitably collide and Charlie is left to pick up the pieces. This revisionist approach is in stark contrast to the traditional gangster film which almost always follows a curve that traces the criminal's rise and eventual fall. However, Scorsese disrupts this notion by having no rise and leaving the fall unresolved. It is Scorsese's rejection of the often pretentious and operatic approach of "The Godfather" films that really makes "Mean Streets" distinctive. It was one of the few gangster films, at the time, to use a personal, almost home-movie view of its subjects. The settings and situations are so intimate and personal that you almost feel embarrassed, as if you are intruding on someone's actual life. The whole cast was prone to improvising dialogue and Scorsese only encouraged them more by creating a very collaborative atmosphere to the whole shoot. This provided actors like Keitel room to grow and learn their craft. This trust resulted in a great performance from not only Keitel but the whole cast who transformed into their characters effortlessly. Keitel was not the only actor who felt like he could make his character his own the whole cast was encouraged to personalize their roles. This approach created a fun environment for the cast and crew to work in and allowed them more opportunity to be creative. To his credit, Scorsese and his crew achieve this effect with smoky, dimly-lit bars for his characters to inhabit and an amazing classic rock soundtrack to compliment the proceedings. There are several moments in the film where the actors are laughing at something and it seems like they are genuinely enjoying the moment and the experience of making this film which only enhances the enjoyment of watching it. One of the real joys of "Mean Streets" is the way Scorsese's camera captures the action. The camera is restless and frantic as it moves in tight, narrow spaces that lead to dead ends. This is done to convey the destiny of the characters. They are full of energy, but are going nowhere in life. In "Mean Streets", Scorsese also used a hand-held camera to create a jerky, off-balance effect that conveys the sensation of disorientation. "Mean Streets" opened at the New York Film Festival to excellent reviews and good business. It did so well that Scorsese wanted to show it in Los Angeles where, despite favorable reviews, it promptly flopped. However, "Mean Streets" began to gradually find an audience and has since become an influential and much imitated film amongst up-and-coming independent filmmakers who id
Guest More than 1 year ago
Martin Scorsese achieves greatness in the early frames of the film when The Rolling Stones ''Tell Me'' blasts from the jukebox and a long trailing camera shot follows Harvey Kietel across the floor of a topless bar. Every film director from that day on wanted to be Marty. And with good reason. This is an American classic. Gritty, well paced action. Great dialogue. Could they make this one today and make it look as good?
Guest More than 1 year ago
I understand that one of the songs featured in this movie - Deserie - is by one of Les Cooper's group 'The Charts.' Where could one obtain the soundtrack of this movie.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Certainly not one of my favorite Scorsese films. It was good but there was like no plot to it. The best part about it was Robert De Niro. This was one of his first films and it was this that made him big. I just wish Niro was in it more. It could have made it much more exciting. I liked the ending though.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago