Mean Streets (1973) Review

I think I am just going to have to admit I don’t get the appeal of some films. Not just the appeal but why films are lauded as “masterpieces” or “classics.” It’s not even like I have a “type” of film that I like watching and can put it down to that. I will watch anything and have favourites in almost every genre of film. It’s just that films where I am preparing myself for a classic or a new favourite, almost always leave me disappointed.

Mean Streets is now added to the other disappointments this year, alongside Raging Bull and The Big Lebowski. To its credit, this film wasn’t even overly hyped to me, although I had heard very good things, but I’d done the most to build my own expectations. You can hardly blame me though, a Scorsese directed film starring both Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro. I thought this film would be brilliant, or at the very least decent.

Raging Bull, another “classic” I just don’t get.

Instead, I found myself getting bored. I found myself wondering what the point of the film was or what story it was trying to tell. I’m all for a film where nothing really seems to happen but you at least have to put something engaging on the screen. I’ve said it before, a great performance does not make up for a poor film. The decent performance in this being Robert De Nero.

De Niro is the saving grace for the film but it’s not enough!

In fact I’d go as far as saying that De Niro is the only good thing about the film. He gets to play a character much more like Travis from Taxi Driver, unhinged, slightly crazy and unpredictable, and it adds a great spark to the film when he is on-screen. Unfortunately though, the film is centred more around Harvey Keitel.

This adds a new conundrum because as I was thinking about this review and what to say about the film, I realised that the more films I watch starring Keitel, the more I don’t like him. I genuinely think he adds very little to a film and doesn’t deserve his “legendary” title that he seems to have obtained. He’s never the best part of a film and although he has some great moments in films like Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, he’s very forgettable compared to others. The films where he’s taken the lead, like this and Bad Lieutenant, I haven’t enjoyed. I just don’t get the appeal.


Seriously beginning to think Keitel is over-rated!


Mean Streets is also turning me against Scorsese too, or at least early Scorsese. I have now been under-whelmed by Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Mean Streets. The saving grace for Scorsese is King of Comedy which was quirky and unusual enough to interest me and his later films, The Departed being one of my absolute favourites.

Apart from the acting, the story in Mean Streets just didn’t engage me. I just wasn’t interested enough in what was going on and even the final moments of the film, when a little bit more excitement and action was injected, didn’t do enough to raise my opinion of this film. It came too late and by that point, I just wanted the film to end.

Overall, another Scorsese film that didn’t impress me and another “classic” that I just didn’t get. There will probably be people reading this that think I’m crazy but I just didn’t get the appeal or why people regard it so highly. Apart from the great performance from Robert De Niro, it was too slow to keep me interested. Maybe I should stop watching classics and watch more films starring Channing Tatum.

Rating 1.5

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

Scorsese still has that magic though…

7 thoughts on “Mean Streets (1973) Review

  1. I have to admit that I didn’t like Mean Streets either, really had a hard time understanding what was going on. So you are not alone on that. As for Raging Bull, it’s one I did enjoy and one I really need to rewatch again.

    1. I’m glad about Mean Streets. Whenever I “attack” a film that many people regard really highly, I worry about any “backlash.”

      1. Hahaha, well you shouldn’t worry about it too much. It’s your opinion about it, nothing wrong with that. There are other movies where I have the same feeling and don’t mind saying so.

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