Mean Streets

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Mean Streets is a 1973 drama film directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Scorsese and Mardik Martin. The film stars Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro and David Proval. It was released by Warner Bros. on October 2, 1973. De Niro won the National Society of Film Critics award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as John "Johnny Boy" Civello.

In 1997, Mean Streets was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."



Charlie (Harvey Keitel) is an Italian-American man hampered by his feeling of responsibility towards his childish and destructive friend Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro) a thug who owes money to many loan sharks. Charlie works for his uncle Giovanni (who is the local caporegime), mostly collecting debts. He is also having a hidden affair with Johnny Boy's cousin, Teresa, who has epilepsy and is ostracized because of her condition — especially by Charlie's uncle. Charlie is torn between his devout Catholicism and his ambitions. As the film progresses, Johnny becomes increasingly self-destructive, growing continually more disrespectful of his creditors. Failing to receive redemption in the church, Charlie seeks it through sacrificing himself on Johnny's behalf. At a bar, a local loan shark comes looking for Johnny to "pay up" but to his surprise Johnny insults him calling him a "jerkoff". The loan shark lunges at Johnny who retaliates by pulling a gun on him and threatening to kill him. Charlie and Johnny flee from the scene with Teresa and are pursued by the loan shark and his goon, who shoots Charlie in the hand and Johnny in the neck, causing the car to crash. The film ends with the ambulance arriving at the scene.


Apart from his student film project Who's That Knocking at My Door and Boxcar Bertha, a directing project given him by early independent maverick Roger Corman, this was Scorsese's first feature film of his own design. Director John Cassavetes told him after he completed Boxcar Bertha: "You’ve just spent a year of your life making a piece of shit." This inspired Scorsese to make a film about his own experiences.[1] Mean Streets was based on actual events Scorsese saw almost regularly while growing up in Little Italy.

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