Favorite Movie


"Dale", at states: "Once Upon A Time in America ", (released in 1984), is the story of four very close friends. They grow up together in the same section of New York , 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 their own?

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 Labor Union.

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 ( New York ) 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 vital spark.

In short, "Once Upon a Time in America " 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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