Jimbo walks without fear, though the streets are dark and dangerous. He has somewhere to go, and nothing is going to keep him from getting there. He'll fight if he has to – he's done it before, and he hasn't been beaten yet; although his face is a patchwork of scars showing how close he's come, sometimes, and there is just a puckered hole where his right eye should be, a souvenir of one particularly vicious encounter. Others, passing, give him a wide berth.

He skirts remains of uneaten pizza and broken beer bottles lying on the sidewalk, stepping over the legs of a pathetic old wino who lies, snoring, in the gutter. Through an open window he hears the insistent nasal whine of an embittered woman, cataloguing her husband's shortcomings, blaming his failures for keeping her in this stinking neighbourhood when she should have been living the high-life. Jimbo has never settled, himself, just gone from female to female, sampling the exquisite pleasures they offer then moving on before things turned as sour as that whining voice.

A splash of scarlet on a doorstep bears silent witness to recent violence, and a cop is close, talking to a group of boys, none of them more than fifteen. They are shaking their heads, vehemently denying all knowledge, and Jimbo wonders if they were complicitous in whatever crime was committed, or just scared of reprisals if they talk. Whichever way, he thinks, they are right in their zealous refusal to cooperate – it would be lunacy these days, in a place like this, to get a name for helping the cops.

As he passes, one of the boys nods in his direction. "Look at him, man," he says to one of his buddies, "he looks like he's been put through a meat-grinder." The other boy laughs, "Don't he? He looks like he won though – ain't nobody going to be messin' wit' him!"

Jimbo lifts his head in pride at the backhanded compliment, strutting a little as he turns the corner into another alley where the stench of rotting garbage mingling with the smells of oil and soy sauce from Chang's Palace would be enough to make you vomit if you didn't have a strong stomach. But this is the only way to get to where he's going, to reach the place were Polly waits for him, ready to make this night good, and to make any risk and discomfort worthwhile.

He jumps, pulling himself up onto the wall at the end of the alley, and, with another little leap, he reaches the fire escape that rises up the back of her building.

Jimbo throws back his head and yowls. It's a fine night for a tomcat to be alive.

"You don't make up for your sins in church- you do it in the streets" (Charlie in Mean Streets)

This remarkable film directed by Martin Scorsese in 1973 was the first which saw him collaborate with Robert De Niro. He heard about him from his friend Brian De Palma. De Palma had worked with him on three films: The Wedding Party, Greetings and Hi, Mom! The original draft was called Season of the Witch and Scorsese decided to rewrite it. The new title Mean Streets was taken from Raymond Chandler: "Down these Mean Streets a man must go".

The film had a tight shooting deadline and saw the interiors and most of the exteriors shot in Los Angeles. Scorsese could afford only 8 days shooting in New York. The improvisation that is seen in the film comes from scripted rehersals. Scenes such as the Garbage can fight between Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro and the scene in the back of the bar where the two meet came about in this way.

The use of music is fantastic with it forming a constant low background to the film. This marked the begining of style that reached its peak in Raging Bull. Songs like Jumping Jack Flash and Be My baby sound great and seem to be the movie. Although they tried to track down all the credits many claims were later made for unpaid music rights.

"The plot wasn't really anything, It was the characters that mattered" (Scorsese).

The Plot:

This sees Charlie (Harvey Keitel) who is a nephew of a local mafia boss try and help Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro) who is the irresponsible cousin of Charlie's epileptic girlfriend Teresa. In doing this he undermines his relationship with his uncle and gradually finds himself embroiled in Johnny Boy's problems. Not wanting to ruin the story I won't say much more. So you'll have to watch the film to see what's so great.

What it's about:
"Mean Streets was an attempt to put myself and my old friends on the screen, to show how we lived, what life was like in Little Italy"

This was often literal. For Example, Johnny Boy is based on a neighbourhood friend of Scorsese called Sally GaGa. But more than this the film tries to show the other side of the American Dream. People who can't get rich legally using all the other means open to them. To them making this money illegally is a vital source of pleasure. Scorsese later returns to this idea in Goodfellas and Casino. Charlie begins the film thinking about salvation. The whole film revolves around him seeking to gain it in his way. But this is not successful. As Scorsese said:

"Charlie uses other people thinking that he's helping them; but by believing that, he's not only ruining them but also himself... its a matter of his own pride- the first sin in the Bible."
Its a film that sounds far more brilliant than a description could lead one to expect. The portrayal of life in Little Italy is so authentic. Its simply wonderful. You have to watch it.


  • A Warner Bros Film
  • Executive Producer: E.Lee Perry
  • Producer: Johnathan T. Taplan
  • Director: Martin Scorsese
  • Screenplay: Martin Scorsese and Mardik Martin from a story by Martin Scorsese
  • Cinematography: Kent Wakeford
  • Editing: Sid Levin
  • Shot in 35mm Colour
  • Length: 110mins
  • Cast:
  • Robert De Niro: Johnny Boy
  • Harvey Keitel: Charlie
  • David Proval: Tony
  • Amy Robinson: Teresa
  • Richard Romanus: Michael
  • Cesare Danova: Giovanni, Victor Argo: Mario, George Memmoli: Joey Catucci, Lenny Scaletta: Jimmy, Jeannie Bell: Diane, David Carradine: Drunk, Robert Carradine: Young Assassin, Lois Waldon: Jewish Girl, Harry Northrup: Vietnam Veteran, Dino Seragua: Old Man, D'Mitch Davis: Black Cop, Peter Fain: George, Julie Andelman: Girl At Party, Robert Wilder: Benton, Ken Sinclair: Sammy, Catherine Scorsese: Woman on landing, Martin Scorsese: Shorty (the killer in the car)

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.