Jan 29

Number 189 Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

Once Upon a Time in America is number 189 of our top 200 movie list.  It is directed by Sergio Leone and stars Robert De Niro, James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern, James Hayden, and William Forsythe.

Once Upon a Time in America

Karen’s Review

Karen did not end up reviewing this movie because she has been extremely tired lately taking care of herself and the baby by getting some extra sleep when she is around the house.

Kenny’s Review

I had high hopes for Once Upon a Time in America upon seeing that Sergio Leone was the director and the all star cast that was in it.  This was going to be my first viewing of it and I checked out the trailer and saw the high reviews on Amazon.com I thought I was going to be in for a real treat.  Unfortunately, the sum of its parts was much greater than the whole.  Now I know a lot of people would be turned off by its long run time of 3 hours and 29 minutes, but some of the best movies of all time are just as long for example, Gone with the Wind and Return of the King.  So, I was not worried about that I just planned on making this movie a two day event and fitting it in when I was not taking care of things.  I watched disc one yesterday and just finished disc two today.

Once Upon a Time in America chronicles the lives of a group of Jewish youths that grow up in the underworld of 1920’s New York.  It follows them through the prohibition days of the 1930s where they rise to the level of power that had dreamed about since they were children.  To culminate in 1968 when Robert De Niro must come back to New York to figure out who has figured out his identity after years of hiding when he has been invited to a famous governmental official’s party.  The story is not told in chronological order and there are several flashbacks to the different time periods, fortunately the storyline is not hard to follow.

The story is also more than just a mob movie it deals with the complex friendship between James Woods and Robert De Niro’s characters from when they met as young swindlers to a complex relationship when they become bootleggers.  If that was not enough of a storyline, Robert De Niro’s character falls for a girl during his childhood and their story is told during each of the time periods of the movie.

The movie has many things going for it.  The soundtrack by Ennio Morricone is wonderful and builds a wonderful platform for the story to be told upon.   The cinematography is gorgeous each scene seems to have no detail left out.  The acting was well done by everybody involved and of course Robert De Niro like he does in all of his movies steals the scenes.   Unfortunately the pace of the movie dragged in parts that it seemed like there was no need for it.  It was like Sergio Leone knew that was going to be his masterpiece and he wanted to carry each scene like it was going to be his last.  The storyline and plot worked but it was so gritty and graphic that it made my stomach turn in parts.  I know that it portrays the underbelly of organized crime, which it does very well, but unlike the Godfather where I end up rooting for the Corleone family here the portrayals of the characters are so dark and graphic that there is nobody to cheer for.  Since this movie is one and done for me I have to give this movie 2 and half shells out of 5.
2 and a half shells

Photo via http://itthing.com/wp-content/uploads/once-upon-a-time-in-america.jpg

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