Mean Streets

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“Mean Streets” is a thriller film of 1973 directed by Martin Scorsese. It is considered one of the director’s first significant works and one of the classics of American cinema. The film is known for its gritty and realistic depiction of life in the inner-city neighborhoods of Little Italy in New York City.

The film follows Charlie, played by Harvey Keitel, a petty criminal who works as a collector for his mobster uncle. Charlie tries to balance his family responsibilities, his personal ambitions and the temptations of the criminal world around him.

His best friend is Johnny Boy, played by Robert De Niro, a short-tempered and self-destructive individual who always gets into trouble. Johnny Boy gets into gambling debts and is acting recklessly, putting Charlie in sticky situations with the mob. The dynamic between Charlie and Johnny Boy is one of the central themes of the film, as Charlie tries to protect and help his friend, despite his self-destructive behavior.

The film also explores the themes of guilt, religion and redemption. Charlie is a devout Catholic and tries to reconcile his faith with his criminal actions. Guilt and self-destruction are recurring throughout the film, as the characters struggle to find meaning in their violent and chaotic lives.

‘Mean Streets’ is known for its vivid and authentic writing, which includes sharp and raw dialogue. The soundtrack is another distinctive element of the film, with a selection of rock songs from the 60s and 70s that accompany the scenes and contribute to the mood of the story.

The film was not a big hit upon its release, but it has gained appreciation over the years and has become a landmark for 1970s American cinema. It marked the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership between Scorsese and De Niro, who subsequently worked together on several blockbuster films.

In summary, ‘Mean Streets’ is a gritty and realistic film that explores the dynamics of crime life and friendship in the inner-city neighborhoods of New York City. With its bold direction and sharp writing, the film left a significant imprint on the American cinematic landscape.

Plot

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The plot of “Mean Streets” revolves around Charlie, played by Harvey Keitel, a young Italian American who works as a petty criminal and collector for his mobster uncle. Charlie is a devout Catholic and tries to keep a balance between his faith, his family life and his illegal activities.

His best friend is Johnny Boy, played by Robert De Niro, a short-tempered and reckless individual who always gets into trouble. Johnny Boy has a lot of gambling debts and often gets Charlie into sticky situations with the mob. Despite adversity, Charlie tries to protect and help Johnny Boy, as he feels morally responsible towards him.

Meanwhile, Charlie falls in love with a woman named Teresa, played by Amy Robinson. Teresa is a sweet young girl who works in a booze shop and is romantically involved with Johnny Boy. Charlie and Teresa’s relationship becomes complicated due to Johnny Boy’s self-destructive actions and his inability to shoulder his responsibilities.

As Charlie tries to manage the dynamics between his family, his mafia responsibilities and his affection for Teresa, he finds himself increasingly embroiled in a spiral of violence and self-destruction. The main characters deal with moral conflicts, guilt, redemption and seek meaning in their turbulent lives.

The plot of “Mean Streets” develops through a series of episodes highlighting the chaotic and dangerous life of the slums of Little Italy. The narrative is characterized by raw dialogues, tense situations and moments of explicit violence.

In the end, the film does not offer a definitive resolution for the characters, but leaves the audience with an uncompromising and realistic view of life in crime and the struggle between faith and sin.

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Movie Characters

mean-streets

Here are the main characters of the movie “Mean Streets”:

Charlie (played by Harvey Keitel): He is the protagonist of the film, a young Italian American who is involved in the world of crime. He works as a collector for his mobster uncle and tries to balance his family responsibilities, his Catholic faith and his illegal activities.

Johnny Boy (played by Robert De Niro): He is Charlie’s best friend, a short-tempered and self-destructive individual. Johnny Boy gets into gambling debts and is acting recklessly, putting Charlie in dangerous situations with the mob.

Teresa (played by Amy Robinson): She is a young woman with whom Charlie falls in love. She works in a booze shop and is romantically involved with Johnny Boy. Her relationship with Charlie becomes complicated due to Johnny Boy’s actions.

Tony (played by David Proval): He is another friend of Charlie and Johnny Boy. He is a ruthless and violent criminal who is involved in illegal activities in the neighborhood.

Michael (played by Richard Romanus): He is Charlie’s cousin, who is part of the mafia. He is one of the bosses of organized crime in the neighborhood and has an authority role in Charlie’s life.

These characters intertwine in an intricate labyrinth of relationships and conflicts, reflecting the complexity and brutality of life in the underworld of Little Italy.

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Production

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“Mean Streets” was written and directed by Martin Scorsese, who also worked on the screenplay together with Mardik Martin. The film was produced by Jonathan T. Taplin through his production company, Taplin-Perry-Scorsese Productions.

The production of “Mean Streets” had a relatively small budget of approximately $500,000. Financing was obtained from various sources, including private investors and friends of Scorsese. This low budget placed some limitations on the making of the film, but also gave Scorsese greater creative freedom.

Filming for the film took place primarily in and around New York City’s Little Italy neighborhood. This authentic location was instrumental in creating the realistic feel of the film. Filming was done with a documentary approach, often using the cinema verité technique to capture urban life and the chaos of the neighbourhoods.

The soundtrack of “Mean Streets” is composed of a selection of rock songs from the 60s and 70s, which reflect the historical period and contribute to the unique atmosphere of the film. Music has become a defining feature of Scorsese’s films throughout his career.

After its production, “Mean Streets” was presented at the Cannes Film Festival in 1974, to positive critical reception. The film helped launch Martin Scorsese’s career as a prominent director and established some of the recurring themes that would shape his future film work.

In conclusion, the production of ‘Mean Streets’ was an independent operation with a modest budget, but managed to make an impactful and influential film. The film paved the way for further successes for Scorsese and helped shape his distinctive style on the American cinema landscape.

Distribution and Reception

“Mean Streets” was released in the United States on October 14, 1973 by Warner Bros. Pictures. Initially, the film received a limited release, but it generated some interest and attracted the attention of critics.

The reception of “Mean Streets” was initially mixed. While some critics praised its authenticity and realistic depiction of inner city life, others found it too violent and confusing. Despite this, the film has gradually gained a cult following and gained an increasingly positive reputation over the years.

The film was particularly praised for its vivid and authentic writing, complex characters, and bold direction by Martin Scorsese. It has been praised for its gritty and realistic depiction of urban life and crime, and the way it explores themes such as guilt, redemption and the struggle between faith and sin.

Despite critical success, ‘Mean Streets’ was not a huge box office hit. Nonetheless, the film played a significant role in solidifying Scorsese’s career as a talented director and established some of the themes and styles that would become hallmarks of his later work.

Today, “Mean Streets” is considered a classic of American cinema of the 70s and a landmark in Martin Scorsese’s path as a director. It is widely regarded for its cultural impact and the influence it has had on the next generation of filmmakers.

Style

The style of “Mean Streets” is characterized by several distinctive components that have become hallmarks of director Martin Scorsese. Here are some of the stylistic elements present in the film:

Urban realism: Scorsese is known for his ability to capture the authentic atmosphere and chaos of life on the streets of big cities. In “Mean Streets,” New York City’s depiction of the underworld of Little Italy is gritty and realistic, with photography that highlights the dirty and crowded urban environment.

Fast-paced editing: Scorsese uses fast, frenetic editing to create a sense of energy and chaos. The action and tension sequences are often interspersed with quick cuts, helping to keep the pace in the film.

Use of Music: The soundtrack to “Mean Streets” is a key element in creating the mood of the film. Scorsese makes extensive use of rock songs from the 60s and 70s, which serve as emotional and narrative commentary to the scenes. Music becomes an integral part of the narrative, emphasizing the emotions and amplifying the energy of the scenes.

Raw and authentic dialogue: Scorsese is known for writing sharp and realistic dialogue, and “Mean Streets” is no exception. The characters in the film speak directly and authentically, with a cadence and language that reflect the environment in which they live.

Religious Themes: Religion is a recurring theme in Scorsese’s cinema, and “Mean Streets” also explores the struggle between faith and sin. The protagonist, Charlie, is a devout Catholic who tries to reconcile his faith with his criminal actions, leading to internal conflict and guilt.

Non-linear narrative pacing: Scorsese uses a non-linear approach in the narrative of “Mean Streets”. The film develops through a series of episodes and scenes which, although they have a narrative connection, do not follow a linear chronological order. This style helps emphasize the complexity of the characters’ lives and creates a sense of discontinuity and chaos.

In summary, the style of “Mean Streets” is distinguished by its realistic depiction, fast-paced editing, use of music, crude dialogues, religious themes and non-linear narrative rhythm. These elements help create an immersive and memorable cinematic experience.

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Themes

“Mean Streets” addresses a number of complex and recurring themes in the cinema of Martin Scorsese. Here are some of the main themes present in the film:

Identity and Belonging: The film explores the question of identity and belonging through the characters of Charlie and Johnny Boy, two young Italian Americans who find themselves navigating their cultural roots, community expectations and the temptations of the criminal underworld. The struggle to define oneself and find a sense of belonging is a central theme in the film.

Redemption and Guilt: Religion and the struggle for redemption are major themes in “Mean Streets”. Charlie’s character is a devout Catholic who tries to balance his faith with his criminal deeds. Guilt for his sinful deeds and the search for redemption are elements that permeate the plot and the journey of the characters.

Friendship and Loyalty: The friendship between Charlie and Johnny Boy is at the heart of the film. Despite Johnny Boy’s self-destructive actions, Charlie remains loyal and tries to protect him. The theme of friendship and loyalty is explored in an environment dominated by crime and violence, testing the bonds between the characters.

Urban Life and Crime: “Mean Streets” offers a gritty and realistic depiction of life in the inner city of Little Italy. The film explores the dynamics of organized crime, street violence and the ambivalent relationship between the characters and their urban environment.

Struggle between good and evil: The film deals with the struggle between good and evil, often portrayed through the internal conflict of the main characters. Charlie tries to keep his faith and act ethically, despite being involved in illegal activities. The temptation of evil and the search for redemption are themes that permeate the path of the characters.

Masculinity and Violence: “Mean Streets” also explores the theme of toxic masculinity and violence as a means of asserting one’s identity. Male characters are often involved in acts of violence and are confronted with the consequences of such behavior.

These themes are woven into the film’s storyline, creating a complex narrative that reflects the nuances of life on the streets and in the slums of New York City.

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Director

Martin-scorsese

The director of “Mean Streets” is Martin Scorsese, one of the most acclaimed and influential directors of American cinema. Born November 17, 1942 in Queens, New York, Scorsese began showing an interest in cinema from a young age and went on to become one of the foremost filmmakers of his generation.

Scorsese has a very prolific film career and has directed a number of films that have become full-blown movies cinema classics. Besides ‘Mean Streets’, some of his most celebrated works include ‘Taxi Driver’ (1976), ‘Raging Bull’ (1980), ‘Goodfellas’ (1990), ‘Casino’ (1995), ‘The Departed’ (2006 ) and “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013).

His distinctive style is characterized by great technical mastery, a deep attention to detail, a great care in the choice of soundtracks and a strong fondness for stories that explore themes such as violence, guilt, redemption and the struggle between good it’s bad. Scorsese is also known for his collaborations with talented actors like Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio and Harvey Keitel.

His versatility as a director is reflected in his ability to span genres including drama, gangster movie, psychological thriller and black comedy. His filmography also includes documentaries, such as “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan” (2005) and “The Last Waltz” (1978), which tell the stories of musicians and music.

Martin Scorsese has been honored with numerous awards and accolades for his career. He won the Academy Award for Best Director for “The Departed” and has received several prestigious awards, including the Cecil B. DeMille Award and the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Film Festival.

His contribution to cinema was immense and his unique and innovative style influenced many subsequent directors. Martin Scorsese continues to be active in the film business, directing and producing films of great impact and artistic importance.

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