warning: some heavy spoilers
boy oh boy, lots to say about this one. what an epic. sergio leone is a very distinctly flawed director, but there aren't many who can capture an audience like he can. some unbelievable character arcs and relationships. noodles and max had an amazing friendship where it seemed they never stopped testing each other (and eventually of course, max tested noodles too far). the five young kids on the street together was also terrific. oh, and 'the wire' comparisons anyone? there's no way the writer(s?) of 'the wire' weren't at least partly inspired by the max/noodles dynamic. a street thug and a businessman, both posing to some extent in whatever context they find themselves in. neither understands the other's motives for taking part in 'business' (mostly bootlegging), hell, one even finally decides to turn the other into the police. the similarities are endless.
it definitely made good use of the 220 minutes, though a good quarter of that probably couldn't be nixed if leone wasn't so obsessed with drawn out soap opera long shots to close out scenes. then again, some of the techniques that accompanied the long shots, especially in era transitions, were really cool and unique. the telephone in the beginning, the changing painted wall/reflection, the rise and fall of fat moe's, etc.
the first... 2-2.5 hours were golden and an easy 10/10. everything fit perfectly, and the only flaws in the movie can be chalked up to simple laziness on the part of leone. too many of the extras taking part in speechless orchestral scenes were terrible cardboard actors who didn't know what they were doing - though that problem recurs in all of leone's films. but yeah, aside from a few scene specific detail issues, i can't imagine anything better. but as soon as the "max wants to rob the fed" storyline was broached, things took a downward spiral. i'm sure that was a key part of the adapted book's story that was build up incrementally with patience, but in the movie it was rushed and felt out of place. and i thought it would explain itself later in the movie - what with the patchwork chronology, maybe an important scene would show up later and fill in gaps - but that never really happened. there was just conversation in the end of the chronology (and film) story that wound up telling the story of max's betrayal. i would have thought that the point of a movie spanning multiple eras told in flashback would be to avoid just telling the audience what happened way back when, and instead showing it to them. so i think that, along with max's crazy flip and ensuing weird out of the blue scenes, took a chunk out of the rating.
all of that said, the final conversation between max and noodles does wind up solving some problems for me, and ending the movie on a positive note. i think it could've been better, but overall it redeemed the middle section. with all of that criticism, the movie is still a very solid 8.5 for me. de niro and woods are exceptional, as was whoever played moe as the weakass i-don't-want-no-trouble jewish prototype. damn worth my time by the end, and it really should be called a masterpiece.
Originally Posted by basketball4life
Once Upon a Time in America
Definitely one of the better movies I've seen. Just under the God Father series in quality, but right there with movies like Casino, The Departed, above The Untouchables. 8.5/10... just a bit long and dragged as it was like 3 hrs and 49 minutes. had to take a break halfway to re-focus, but it was interesting pretty much all the way through definitely worth a viewing.
oh - didn't see this. looks like we felt mostly the same way.