A mentally unstable veteran works as a nighttime taxi driver in New York City, where the perceived decadence and sleaze fuels his urge for violent action, while attempting to liberate a twelve-year-old prostitute.
Robert De Niro,
A tale of greed, deception, money, power, and murder occur between two best friends: a mafia enforcer and a casino executive, compete against each other over a gambling empire, and over a fast living and fast loving socialite.
A group of professional bank robbers start to feel the heat from police when they unknowingly leave a clue at their latest heist, while both sides attempt to find balance between their personal and their professional lives.
When Max and Noodles are on the beach, Noodles' girlfriend lays a newspaper across his face. When the wind blows, you can see duplicate pages, revealing that it's a fake newspaper. See more »
[In 1933, two goons rudely question a young woman]
Where is he? Where's he hiding?
I don't know... I've been looking for him since yesterday.
[second goon slaps her harshly; she falls onto the bed]
I'm gonna ask you for the last time: Where is he?
I don't know... What are you gonna do to him?
[Two shots are heard]
[to his partner]
Stay here in case that rat shows up...
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I'm familiar with most of the great gangster movies that have come out, but I've never heard of this title until recently. Well, I found why I've never heard of it -- the film is long, boring and disappointing. Somewhere in there is an interesting story, but "Once Upon a Time in America" does not tell that story.
Basically, with flashbacks occurring here and there, the movie follows a group of kids in their journey from young hoods to adult hoods. However, "Once Upon a Time in America" is too long, too disjointed, the story is not compelling, and the acting in the early parts of the film is atrocious (especially the child actors). A large part of the problem with the movie is Sergio Leone's directing style. Leone loves long stares and glances and wide panoramic shots, and unlike in his westerns, this style simply does not work here. In Leone's westerns these long sequences effectively built up tension while here they are just boring cinematic filler.
It seems that Leone lost objectivity in editing because a lot of scenes drag on unnecessarily, making the nearly 4 hour running time seem twice as long. In the first hour alone there's more than 5 minutes devoted to a scene of a 12-13 year old girl dancing ballet while a young Noodles (the main character) secretly watches. Did this really need to be 5 minutes? The point is made in the first minute -- she's a beautiful young girl and Noodles is in love with here. Why stretch it out for another 4 minutes? There's no point to it unless you like watching young girls ballet dance.
Soon afterward we're treated to a another 4-5 minute scene of a little kid eating pastry while melodramatic music gushes in like its some sort of pivotal scene. It boggles the mind why stuff like this was not edited down -- it doesn't move the story, its not cinematic and its not even acting, its 4-5 minutes of a kid eating cake.
Lastly, whereas a movie like "The Godfather" comes across as realistic and believable, "Once Upon a Time in America" while ostensibly gritty and realistic is anything but. Certain events in the story are completely unbelievable and hard to view as anything but fiction, which is not an asset when you are making a hard, gritty gangster movie.
If you like long 4 hour movies I guess this is for you, but to anyone else I would say that there's a good reason this movie has largely been forgotten, so proceed at your own risk.
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