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Martin Scorsese
Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, David Proval, Amy Robinson, Richard Romanus, Cesare Danova
Writing Credits:
Martin Scorsese, Mardik Martin

You don't make up for your sins in church. You do it on the streets ...

Mean Streets heralded Martin Scorsese's arrival as a new filmmaking force - and marked his first historic teaming with Robert De Niro. It's a story Scorsese lived, a semi-autobiographical tale of first-generation sons and daughters of New York's Little Italy.

Box Office:
$150 thousand.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Latin Spanish Dolby Digital Monaural
Portuguese Dolby Digital Monaural
Latin Spanish
Supplements Subtitles:
Latin Spanish

Runtime: 112 min.
Price: $19.97
Release Date: 7/17/2012

• Audio Commentary with Director Martin Scorsese and Actor Amy Robinson
• “Martin Scorsese: Back on the Block” Featurette
• Trailer


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Mean Streets [Blu-Ray] (1973)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 20, 2013)

Many decades into Martin Scorsese's career, 1973’s Mean Streets evokes interest mainly due to its position in history: it offered Scorsese's first collaboration with Robert De Niro, and it also foreshadowed the themes the two would explore in later films. Unfortunately, since those subsequent efforts fare much better than Mean Streets, I had a hard time maintaining much interest in it.

In many ways, Mean Streets reminds me of a smaller-scale GoodFellas. They both focus on local mobs and they both feature serious "loose cannon" characters who complicate matters for everyone else.

As “Johnny Boy”, De Niro takes that role here, and it's interesting to see him offer such a performance. After Mean Streets, De Niro focused more on characters who display tighter control; they lose it from time to time, but for the most part, they at least attempt to keep themselves calm and stable.

That's not the case with Johnny Boy; he's about as careless and irresponsible as they come. De Niro opens himself up more than usual and creates a rather broad characterization of Johnny Boy; while this is interesting to see, it makes him less believable, since one would assume someone would have dealt severely with this jerk quite some time ago.

The only real explanation for why Johnny Boy didn’t get handed his lungs stems from the fact that Charlie (Harvey Keitel) seems to feel the need to act as Johnny's guardian angel; he spends most of the movie struggling to extricate Johnny from his self-created jams. It never appears very clear to me why Charlie is so dedicated to Johnny, and that vagueness spills over to Keitel's performance.

Charlie's the main character inMean Streets but it never feels that way; in fact, every role seems to fall in the “supporting” realm. I think Keitel's work here seems rather flat; he's not bad, but there is never anything compelling about his acting.

Ultimately, I feel the same way about the movie itself. Yes, it's fun to view it as a novelty and see how it foreshadows Scorsese's style and later work - one scene when Johnny Boy walks through a bar accompanied by “Jumping Jack Flash” really stands out in that regard - but as a film, it simply doesn't hold up very well after all these years. The movie lacks focus and conviction; it seems to be more of a random assemblage of moments than a concrete story, and most of those moments aren't terribly interesting. Mean Streets offers little for anyone who's not a Scorsese fanatic.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio C-/ Bonus B-

Mean Streets appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Despite the film’s low-budget origins, it looked quite good.

Sharpness appeared solid. Only minor hints of softness ever manifested themselves, and they resulted mainly from the restrictions of the shooting conditions. Overall, the picture looked accurate and appropriately defined. I saw no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement remained absent. I saw no print flaws, and if any noise reduction occurred, it was modest.

Colors were a little erratic and could go from fairly vibrant to somewhat dense. However, the concerns stayed minor and they reflected the restrictions of the film stock. In general, the hues appeared pretty well-defined, and the transfer held them well, even when we found red lighting. Blacks were appropriately firm and dense, and the many low-light shots demonstrated good delineation and accuracy. This was a stronger than expected image given the film’s age and origins.

The DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack of Mean Streets seemed erratic. One big problem continued to come from the music. The film used tons of pop/rock songs for its score along with other source recordings, and according to the commentary, these were transferred from Martin Scorsese’s own record collection.

Because of that, the quality of the music often appeared weak. Occasionally a song sounded decent - the Rolling Stones' “Tell Me” being one of the more acceptable examples - but most of the tracks were harsh and distorted. Check out the Ronettes' “Be My Baby” at the start of the film - it was a grating disaster. I hoped it would be an exception, but it was closer to the rule. Plenty of other terrible sounding songs occurred as well, like the shrill reproduction of the Marvelettes’ “Please Mister Postman”.

Speech sounded somewhat distant, but the lines came across as fairly well-defined and intelligible. Poor dubbing could distract, but that remained inevitable, as it’s part of the original. Effects didn’t present much definition or depth, and they occasionally suffered from minor distortion. Still, they came across as acceptable. Nothing here impressed, but much of that stemmed from the source, so the mix represented the flawed original track about as well as it could.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2004 Special Edition DVD? Audio might’ve had a little more depth in this lossless track, but this remained sow’s ear territory; as long as the movie stays with songs taken from Scorsese’s 45s, they’ll sound bad.

Visuals were much more pleasing. The Blu-ray offered improved definition and clarity, with clearer colors. The DVD looked good but the Blu-ray was more natural.

The 2004 DVD’s extras repeat here. Most significantly, we find an audio commentary from director Martin Scorsese and actor Amy Robinson. Both were recorded separately and their remarks were edited together for this non-screen-specific track. Actually, the piece skips through a few parts of the movie and doesn’t cover its entire 112-minute running time; the commentary fills 81 minutes and 31 seconds.

Nonetheless, it’s a very good track. Unsurprisingly, Scorsese dominates with a broad and expansive discussion. He discusses the personal roots of the movie and gets into his initial interest in films as well as his early days as a director and how this led to Streets. Among other topics, Scorsese also chats about the characters and their connections to his real life as well as his use of music in the flick.

Robinson pops up less frequently and covers fairly similar subjects like her casting, the dynamic film scene of the early Seventies, and working with the others. A lot of great information comes out through this informative and compelling piece.

In addition to the movie’s theatrical trailer, we also get Martin Scorsese: Back on the Block, a period featurette about Mean Streets. It runs six minutes, 57 seconds as we see movie clips and candid footage and hear remarks about the flick from Scorsese and two childhood friends on whom some characters were based. We learn a little about the reality behind the film and the locations and other filming circumstances. It’s fairly insubstantial but it still provides a nice look at some behind the scenes elements.

Mean Streets remains one of Martin Scorsese’s least compelling movies. We can see glimmers of greatness that occasionally emerge, but as a whole it seemed to be a muddled and uncompelling affair. As for the Blu-ray, it provides strong visuals along with mediocre audio and a few interesting bonus materials. This remains lackluster Scorsese, but it’s worth a look as a representation of the director’s early days.

Note that Mean Streets can be purchased on its own or as part of a five-film “Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Contemporary”. That package also includes The Untouchables, GoodFellas, Heat and The Departed. With a list price of $50, the “Collection” costs $30 less than the roughly $80 MSRP of the five individual Blu-rays and comes with an added booklet as well.

To rate this film, visit the Special Edition review of MEAN STREETS

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