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Once upon a Time in America

Once upon a Time in America

Sergio Leone (1984)

251min
18 Certificate
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Review

Our Score
Sergio Leone was the man who reinvented the western with the Dollars films starring Clint Eastwood and also the masterly Once upon a Time in the West. This, his final film, is an extraordinary crime drama that runs for nearly four hours in its full-length version and chronicles the lives of two New York gangsters, Noodles and Max, played by Robert De Niro and James Woods. Clearly influenced by The Godfather - wags called Noodles and Max the "kosher nostra" - it is made on a massive scale. Four decades roll past in flashback, underpinned by a great Ennio Morricone score. The plotting is often arbitrary, but, unlike The Godfather, Leone and his fine actors never try to win our sympathy: these are nasty people and there are two rape scenes, involving Tuesday Weld and Elizabeth McGovern, that may be among the most shocking ever filmed. But just gasp at the scale, at the immaculate period reconstruction and at that incredible opening with its endlessly ringing phone. This is essentially a re-examination of Leone's western preoccupations. Just as he reclaimed the west for "violent, uncomplicated men", here he treats crime and corruption as a quintessential part of modern American life. According to Leone, we shouldn't be shocked that a bootlegger can end up mixing with the rich and powerful. That's just how the system works. It's a scathing indictment of America's recent past and perhaps that's why, like Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate, it was a resounding flop on its US release and was heavily cut by its panicked distributors. It fared better in Europe, where it was hailed as a masterpiece of 1980s cinema.

Summary

Elderly New York gangster Noodles returns to his old haunts in the 1960s, prompting him to cast his mind back to how he and his friends rose through the ranks of Manhattan's underworld during the Depression and the Prohibition era. Sergio Leone's epic crime drama, starring Robert De Niro, James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern, Tuesday Weld, Treat Williams, Joe Pesci and Burt Young.

Cast & Crew

Noodles Robert De Niro
Max James Woods
Deborah Elizabeth McGovern
Jimmy O'Donnell Treat Williams
Carol Tuesday Weld
Joe Burt Young
Frankie Joe Pesci
Police chief Danny Aiello
Cockeye William Forsythe
Patsy James Hayden
Eve Darlanne Fluegel
"Fat" Moe Gelly Larry Rapp
Bugsy James Russo
Chicken Joe Richard Bright
Young Deborah Jennifer Connelly
Young Noodles Scott Tiler
Young Max Rusty Jacobs
Young Patsy Brian Bloom
Young Cockeye Adrian Curran
Young Moe Mike Monetti
Director Sergio Leone
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Other Information

Language: English Colour Guidance: Violence, swearing and nudity. Available on: Available on video, DVD and BluRay

Drama

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