Scorsese’s breakthrough film was an instant declaration of the themes he’s been elaborating ever since and of his talent. Mean Streets, is about hustlers in the midlevel of organized crime. It explores the exhiliration and the destructivesness of extended adolescence and a peculiar search for redemption that has continued throughout Scorsese’s films.
The intense, interior, earnest, considered Charlie, and it’s terrifying friend Johnny Boy are the key characters of the 1970s cinema. They establish personae the stars would explore in a run of outstanding work for Scorsese and others. The film ends in a bloody apotheosis, a shootout-car crash that leaves some of the characters all throughly injured and some dead, if we know who? Along the way, there is a joyous energy as Harvey Keitel struts into neon-lit bars in his sharp suits, the camera prowling along with him. And the most amazing thing is that Scorsese’s use of lighting here is so effective, here is a place (the bar), where all the lights is on color red, that could mean that this place is full of sin, greed, guilt, sex, crime. Charlie sees that but feels trapped between religion and mafia. This could as well mean that Charlie feels also more care to Johnny Boy and Teresa, than to his uncle. He understands more of what he thinks about himself, not to get involved with these people, and also not to be a future mafia. The film also uses soundtrack that is I believe popular during 1973, it doesn’t play music for fun, it uses it also with a brilliant timing and action to replicate the scene where Charlie or any other character is. The film as well is shot on a semi-handheld camera, this makes it more realistic and standard, like a typical indie film, and also to make the place look more real unlike some other creative fictional world out there.
I think this is Scorsese’s 1st ever great masterpiece, that is a beginning to some of his later films beginning to the great age of gangster films about whites, blacks, latinos, and other races who compete with prejudice. What more could Mean Streets give to the audiences, it has an intense drama, gritty action, emotional romance, and a darker thrill. It’s truly a great film, though it was release like 40 years ago, still, it doesn’t feel a cult or a low budget cheap film, it was beyond that, and only Scorsese can make a movie like this with such purity and brilliance that we can as well say, related to his life.