Mean Streets (1973)

mean streets poster 1973 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 10/10

Gritty, great looking, low budget movie, DeNiro, Keitel

Not much of a story

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Mean Streets

Studio:  Warner Bros.

Genre(s):  Drama

Release Date(s):  October 14, 1973

MPAA Rating:  R


Ok…my friends or my future?

Charlie (Harvey Keitel) is an up-and-comer in his uncle’s Mafioso “empire”. Through his influences, he’s able to protect his best friend Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro) and is also secretly sleeping with Johnny Boy’s cousin Teresa (Amy Robinson) who is considered “damaged goods” due to her epilepsy. When Johnny Boy’s debts continue to pile up and Teresa demands more of a relationship, Charlie will choose love and friends over his business?

Directed by Martin Scorsese, Mean Streets was his first major directorial debut and shot in a very guerilla style. The movie was hailed by critics and is considered a modern classic. Much of the critics’ praise was for Robert De Niro’s performance as Johnny Boy.


Can’t we all just get along?

The movie is one of those movies that doesn’t have much of a plot. Charlie is struggling with his desire to aspire to more than he was and his old ties to his past. The plot kind of meanders through his days, but really doesn’t have much happen until near the end when Johnny Boy’s careless nature finally catches up to him and invades Charlie’s world.

The movie is shot in a really unique style. The budget was so low that Scorsese had to be real inventive to get the shots he needed. He didn’t use union workers because he couldn’t afford it so many of the set-ups were allegedly quick and shot quickly to keep on the run. Things like Keitel’s drinking scene in which a camera is attached to feel real modern and have been used by other recent films like Requiem for a Dream.


You talkin’ to me? Oh wait, wrong movie…

Keitel and De Niro are great.  Charlie is obviously more torn than he can admit about his friendship with Johnny Boy. He knows that he is destroying the career he is building, but he can’t break free of him. There are moments where I think even Charlie thinks of killing him in almost an Of Mice and Men style of mercy killing. De Niro is also good as Johnny Boy the frustrated who is a slacker but feels he never had the opportunity of his friend. His jealously of Charlie helps motivate him, but also makes him reckless since always protect him.

Mean Streets is a gritty looking movie and sometimes considered one of the great films about New York (surprisingly much of it wasn’t actually shot in New York). It is fun to watch just to see Keitel, De Niro, and Scorsese’s early work. Fans of mafia movies will enjoy it too with tons of “mooks” (helped coin by this movie) and “get outta here”s that today almost seem cliché but then were new territory. Scorsese followed Mean Streets with in Italianamerican (a documentary) and Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore in 1974.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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