Upon A Time in
in 1984), is the story of four very close friends. They grow up together in the
same section of
, doing odd jobs for local hoods until one day they decide that it is time for
them to have their own gang. Why work for others when they could be doing it on
They start their own gang, and it becomes a great success. So much so that the
rival gangs try to dissuade them from business. Quite forcefully, in fact. This
does not work, and the boys grow to manhood, only to learn that one of them has
involved them with an Italian mobster as well as some shady men who are with the
This movie is truly amazing. The sets are fantastic and beautiful. The
production designer should be commended. Ennio Morricone's music is beautiful
and adds poetry to the action, as does every Morricone score. The camerawork is
a sight to behold, taking a location we have seen many times before (
) and a subject we are not unfamiliar with (the mob) and finding fresh angles
and approaches to it. The city has never looked so beautiful. It still looks a
bit grimy, but it is also beautiful.
But the transitions in this movie. Wow. I have never seen such a flawless use of
editing. This movie is exceptionally well-paced. It may be close to four hours
long but unless you have a clock close to your television, you would never know.
Half an hour of this movie moves like ten minutes of any normal film. This film
flows, secure with its story, assured of its characters, and with a solid
destination in mind. Not a scrap of film is wasted.
And I have not even gotten to the performances yet! Robert Deniro has played a
gangster many times before, but never as well as he does here. His roles may
resemble one another on the surface, but he finds a way to make each character
distinctive. He finds a way to breathe life into the people he plays every time,
and he does it effortlessly. James Woods also does a commendable job. He is
great when given a great role, and often just all right in a movie like
"The Specialist". Well, he has a great role here and he owns it. He
stops being James Woods and becomes this man. He is superb.
Another great thing? The tone of the film. Leone does a remarkable job of
showing the inalienable humanity of his characters and letting us relate to
them. We may not agree with some or any of the things they are doing, but we can
see where they are coming from. We can see why they are the way that they are
and we can understand them. It would be impossible to stick with this film for
four hours, no matter how pretty it was or well it was made, without that one
In short, "Once Upon a Time in
" hooks you from the very first frame and does not retract the hooks until
four hours later. It is a mesmerizing, poetic, haunting and all-around brilliant
bit of filmmaking.
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