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Once upon a Time in America
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Sergio Leone was the man who reinvented the western with the
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
- 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
, 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
, 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.
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
Robert De Niro
"Fat" Moe Gelly
Violence, swearing and nudity.
video, DVD and Blu-ray
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