Once Upon a Time in America

Year: 1984
Directed By: Sergio Leone
Written By: Harry Grey (novel) six different men are credited with the screenplay including Sergio Leone.

RYAN’S REVIEW

One of my favorite things to do in the past was browse the movie sections of stores or stroll through a video store to look at all that was available. I loved looking at all the options and picking out something I wanted to buy or something to rent. Sadly as time has moved on this is something I have lost the opportunity to do. Movie sections in stores are shrinking at an incredible rate and video stores are all but nonexistent these days. The closest anything comes now is the recommendations suggested to me on Amazon. I find myself sometimes just scrolling through the images presented to me looking for something I want. I rarely find an older movie that I want and don’t already own but sometimes I see something that I think I should have seen and never did. That’s how this movie came into the collection. I was eventually worn down by Amazon and clicked that order button one day just taking a chance. It was a mob movie and it starred Robert De Niro, James Woods, William Forsythe, and Joe Pesci. Throw in Sergio Leone as director and I found myself wondering how I had managed to miss this one over the years.

Now, after spending three days to watch this movie that has a running time of 3 hours and 40 minutes I came away with only one thought in mind. If you want a looooonnngg and confusing mobster film then this movie is head and shoulders above The Godfather II. I’ll admit that after watching this movie I wasn’t sure exactly what had happened. That’s due in part to the fact I tried to watch it in three different viewings and truthfully when I was sitting down to watch it my attention wavered frequently because the movie is so slow. Nevertheless, even without knowing the ins and outs of the plot I still felt like this movie was better than De Niro’s more famous mob movie from ten years earlier.

I had never seen a Sergio Leone film. His trilogy of spaghetti westerns has long been on my to-do list and I have known his name and reputation for quite a while. When his name popped out to me on the Amazon image I thought it was high time I actually see one of his films. I found his film quite impressive truthfully. Far too drawn out at times and the story telling could have been better but all that was made up for in spades with savage and exciting action. I don’t care for the portrayal of rape in the film because it seems altogether too casual to me. Not necessarily the rape of De Niro’s true love Deborah but of the woman in the bank more so. What he did really offended me, and I specifically didn’t like how everyone was so nonchalant about it as the film went on.

De Niro is a great actor who does incredible in this movie playing varying ages but I don’t like how rapey he is. It was a bit of a shock to me to see De Niro raping women like he does in this movie. I don’t know why because over the years I have seen him do so many violent things in films but this seemed like a line I hadn’t seen him cross before. That’s not all that makes his opium smoking Jewish gangster an unsavory character among all the others he has played in his career, but it is what bothered me the most.

I specifically liked James Woods’ portrayal of Max and wish he had taken more mobster roles in the past. I like James Woods but more often than not he is playing the wrong character. The immediate parts that come to mind are the pimp he plays in Casino and the trainer he plays in Any Given Sunday. Not his fault because both of those characters were specifically written to be disliked. There are plenty of his films I have yet to see and roles like the one he had in this movie give me reason to look forward to them.

I was partially sold on this movie by presence of Joe Pesci in the cast. I am a huge Pesci fan and feel like I haven’t seen enough of him in his career. The opportunity to see him in another mob film was so appetizing but I have to report that I was let down. Pesci is awesome as ever in this movie but his role is merely a cameo. He is only in the movie for maybe 5, 10 minutes tops. A big disappointment but I’ll take anything I can get from Joe Pesci because he isn’t like to make more movies in the future.

I only bring up The Godfather II because so many people have the audacity to call it great. I call it confusing, slow, a weak story, and practically absent of anything exciting. This movie can be a bit confusing too as it is all over the place in both time and tone. However where this movie makes up for all its faults is in the action. When the fire gets lit in this movie explosions happen and it’s hard to predict what might happen next. The action in this film is graphic and worthy of praise. The movie sets the tone early by starting with a bang before it drags out hopelessly but when things do happen they happen in a big and exciting way.

I specifically liked the scene in which the gangster pulled the old switcheroo on the Police Chief’s baby. The whole scene is incredible. Danny Aiello is so good in the role as a father of four daughters who has had his first son. I love how excited he is to have finally had a son and how much of an ass he is in explaining to his daughters that they now more or less don’t matter because a boy has been born. The shock on his face when he opens up the diaper to see a vagina staring right back at him is hilarious. When De Niro calls with demands it is the easiest thing in the world to get done because he has all the leverage in the world against this man. The real punch line comes after De Niro hangs up the phone and his associate tells him he actually lost the list of baby numbers they used to switch the kids around. Even funnier, and horrible as the same time, is how De Niro just shrugs it off and they decide that any random baby boy will do.

Buying this movie was a shot in the dark for me. In the purchase I’ll call it a swing and a miss but it wasn’t a complete waste. I didn’t really like this movie but I liked enough about it. I am glad to have seen it if for no other reason than that one scene with Danny Aiello was awesome. I also love any opportunity to bash The Godfather II and this movie offers the opportunity to do so. I sincerely think that film is awful despite what anybody says. I loved the first one, it’s one of my favorites of all time but the sequel is garbage. The third film is even worse. There are parts of The Godfather II that are cool. The flashback scenes of a young Vito Corleone that were part of the original book were cool but as I said in my review, everything that happens at present time is awful. If you want a movie like The Godfather II that is better then check this one out. Otherwise I can’t say it is worth any of your time. However, there are few films that are this long that I will ever suggest are worth anyone’s time.

NEXT MOVIE: Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003)

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s