Once Upon a Time in America

Year: 1984
Production Co: Regency Enterprises
Director: Sergio Leone
Writer: Sergio Leone/Harry Grey/Leonardo Benvenuti/Piero De Bernardi/Enrico Medioli
Cast: Robert De Niro, James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern, Treat Williams, Joe Pesci, Burt Young, Danny Aiello, Jennifer Connelly, Tuesday Weld, Treat Williams, William Forsythe

After a career of schlocky spaghetti westerns, Leone turned his hand to what seems to be his Magnum Opus, the tale of a group of petty crims who grow up in prohibition-era New York to become very powerful organised crime bosses, their lives awash in violence and shifting loyalties.

Told between the modern day, where Noodles (De Niro) comes home years after the FBI shot up his friends during their last heist, and their lives as street kids and teen gangsters, it looks at the life through Noodles' eyes, and you wonder if you're supposed to feel sorry for him or be repulsed by him. After a lifetime of pursuing the beautiful sister of a gang member (McGovern), he resorts to simply raping her.

Otherwise it's an exhaustive, epic story, easily as sweeping as The Godfather and nearly as authoritative, and what a great note for Leone to go out on. The three and a half hour running time could have been a lot shorter, except for Leone's long, lingering tracking shots of seemingly unimportant events (the kid eating the cream cake etc). Occasionally it gets a bit much, but does set a mood and portrays Leone's love for his subjects and the medium.

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