“You’ll be carrying the stink of the streets with you for the rest of your life! “
SYNOPSIS: A former Prohibition-era Jewish gangster returns to the Lower East Side of Manhattan over thirty years later, where he once again must confront the ghosts and regrets of his old life. – via IMDB
You know, I am not going to pretend that I didn’t have high hopes for this one. I did. Old school organised crime and Robert De Niro? Uhm, yes, sold. Well. Well. Uhm, yeah. Okay, I will just come out and say it. I didn’t love it. I wanted to, but I didn’t. There was just so much here that put me off of it completely.
Once Upon A Time In America treats women horifically. Like fuck my life, what the hell was that?! I am going to address this as my primary issue because, well, you can’t watch this movie and miss that. I was horrified. Women were objects there for sex and amusement, and didn’t really stand as their own characters. Just watching how they get treated by the men of the cast really makes you hate the men of the cast, and no storytelling can save it. For instance, this movie features one of the most drawn out, disgusting rape scenes I have ever had the misfortune to sit through. As if I didn’t dislike Noodles enough, that was enough to make me hate him, and there was no redeeming him. The movie tried, too, like it was just a thing, and I was horrified by how meek Deborah was when seeing him all those years later, like there was still this fire between them. Fuck that. Not to mention Carol at the break in, and Peggy in the beginning of the movie. DISGUSTING.
Not to mention the story was skinny, too. I had to sit down six different times to try and get through this movie. I have no issue with a movie coming in with a super long runtime, as long as the story is good and it is all put together well. Here, I didn’t feel that the time was utilised correctly. There were times where it was good to watch Noodles and Max together, even though what they are up to is dodgy (because that’s how organised crime rolls, but you can enjoy the show), but then there is rape, gratuitous sex, violence, and lots of rambling with no story to fill it, and the story that was woven through the almost four hour runtime? Pretty fucking thin, and I didn’t appreciate that at all.
Some of the performances were clunky, too, and I don’t care who has what to say on that. Some of the performances were excellent – De Niro, for instance, sickened me to my core, but portrayed his character really well. Jennifer Connelly was great, and McGovern hit with a bang. Woods was solid, too. I was also not a fan of the extremely limited music used throughout the movie. It was annoying and grating. Of the entire movie, I must be honest and say I preferred watching the half when they were kids (even though the acting was truly godawful, the story was better), pre-prison for Noodles, even though there were some super issues with it, too.
While lauded as one hell of a gangster film, I was immensely disappointed with Once Upon A Time In America, and will not be rushing to rewatch it. Horrific treatment of women, a stupidly skinny story, and a mixed bag of performances, I found this to be disappointing and excessively long for what it is.