Now we're going to take a look at some of the most important film material I've missed over the years; movies directed my Martin Scorsese, featuring his old go-to, Robert De Niro. I've seen some, but missed most, and we kick things off with the film that arguably put both Scorsese and De Niro both on the map. After this, they would both go down in cinematic history as one of the all-time great duos. But the path starts here, where De Niro actually plays a secondary role, but an interesting one nonetheless. He's not quite the guy we've come to expect over the years. In fact, this one's more of his comedic side - but not a family friendly one.
The film opens by introducing us to our four leads, and showing us their individual personalities; Michael (Richard Romanus), Tony (David Proval), Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro) and Charlie (Harvey Keitel). Johnny Boy is a small-time gambler, owing money to loan sharks and refusing to work to make it happen. Feeling a responsibility towards him as a good friend is Charlie, who also happens to be having an affair with Johnny Boy's epileptic cousin, Teresa (Amy Robinson).Charlie also works for the mafia, under his Uncle Giovanni (Cesare Danova), who would rather Charlie distance himself from Johnny Boy and his self-destructive behavior.
Most of the movie is watching how Charlie deals with his personal divide between his devout Catholicism and his work for the mafia, which ultimately tears him between his friend, Johnny Boy, and some of the people Johnny owes money to. As for the other two characters, they are essentially a part of the group, playing side characters who own a bar, make deals in the streets, and have a fairly solid future ahead of them. They're the ones who may or may not get really hindered by Johnny's eccentric personality in the long run. But that's really about the extent of things as far as plot goes.
What I really liked about this one was its overall simplicity. This wasn't another mafia movie as we've come to know them so much as a "slice of life" movie about one particular mafia character. The movie is largely just watching how these four characters act, and it's surprisingly packed with a certain sense of humor you don't always get in these kinds of movies. And the way it ends, for yours truly, is just a *chef's kiss*. Without spoiling anything, it's left open-ended, but not in the sense that you think a sequel is going to happen. Think 'Inception' or 'Thelma & Louise'. I love having to use my imagination for stuff like that because, dammit, sometimes being "spoon-fed" is just no fun.
As one would probably expect from a movie from 1973, there are bound to be areas of the film that wouldn't quite fly as well today - but at the same time, when we're looking at these characters, these offenses come as no real surprise. Regardless, the film went on to be one of the all-time great "break-out" films in history. The equivalents to this for Scorsese would be along the lines of 'Jaws' for Spielberg, 'Clerks' for Kevin Smith, or 'Halloween' for John Carpenter. So it could be that this one is off the radar for some, simply due to age, but if you like a good mafia type movie with a good sense of humor, I can highly recommend this one. While it may not be my favorite Scorsese flick, I still really enjoyed it for the type of movie it turned out to be.