Charlie (Keitel) is the well-dressed nephew of a mafia boss in New York City’s Little Italy neighbourhood. When he isn’t doing the don’s work, he hangs out with his irrepressible and frankly rather annoying friend Johnny Boy (de Niro), often in a bar run by their mutual friend Tony (Proval). Charlie is in a casual relationship with Johnny Boy’s cousin, Theresa (Robinson). They are on the cusp of starting a life together, when Johnny Boy gets into trouble with suave loan shark Michael (Romanus).
It is great to see de Niro and Keitel acting their socks off together in scene after scene, their verbal sparring with a kooky, ‘street’ vocabulary segueing into playful rough housing. There is something similar going on with the film style. It is interesting to see how many Scorsese signatures are evident this early on: dig the saturated colours in the bar; the slow motion sequences and their use of 60s soul songs to suggest a feeling of owned cultural identity; the macho motor mouthing and posturing; the fancy camera work to suggest a personal perspective.
But this is before the big budgets and a feeling of self importance flooded Scorsese’s work. This feels both personal and truly independent, almost guerilla in its grittiness.
Mean Streets isn’t just incandescent with youthful energy from cast and crew; it is also a poignant and nostalgic labour of love. The story may be embellished, but this is the way the young Martin Scorsese lived in his neighbourhood, growing up. The woman who leans out of her window to shout at Charlie and Johnny Boy’s puppying about was actually a neighbour. This is what he wanted to make his film about: a neighbourhood and a way of life.
The film is presented in a new 4K restoration that has been supervised and approved by the director himself along with collaborator Thelma Schoonmaker. The UHD and Blu-ray both include the main feature and bonus features and the UHD is presented in Dolby Vision HDR with restored original mono audio.
Special features include:
● New audio commentary by Demetrios Matheou (author of BFI Classics Mean Streets) and David Thompson (Co-Editor of Scorsese on Scorsese)
● Scene specific audio commentary with Martin Scorsese and actor Amy Robinson
● Keep Moving Forward: a new interview with producer Jonathan T Taplin
● Saints and Sinners: Dr Catherine Wheatley on Mean Streets
● 2011 Film at Lincoln Center screening introduction, interview and Q&A with Martin Scorsese
● Mardik: Baghdad to Hollywood feature-length documentary
● Archive featurette: Back on the Block
● Archive featurette: Home Movies
Mean Streets Dual 4K UHD/Blu-ray Box Set plus standard editions is out on 15 January 2024.