Mean Streets

When Martin Scorsese wrote the screenplay of Mean Streets he was a struggling filmmaker with just a few low budget films and editing jobs to his name. He showed the script to Roger Corman who said he’d finance the film if Marty changed it from Italian American guys to a black gangsters. Marty declined, even though he was desperate to see his story on the screen.

And this is his story – the story of working class Italian American guys whose only choice seems to be criminality or the church. Marty had another choice, he choose cinema and this is one of the most striking low budget films ever made.

The money (I think) eventually came via a guy who organised Bob Dylan’s tours and the rock and roll connection doesn’t finish there. This film is furnished with a great soundtrack that matches the intensity of the script and shooting.

Harvey Keitel is good as the lead, but Robert De Niro comes into the film looking like a wild man has walked onto a film set. He’s out of control, crazy and massively compelling as Johnny Boy, a kid who won’t bend to the rules of the street and who ends up paying the price because of his wild and disrespectful ways.

For me, this, Goodfellas and Casino are Scorsese’s great films. I like Raging Bull too, but find it a little bit disconnected. Everything else Scorsese has done seems to be marking time, or just working for work’s sake. His recent films leave me very cold.

The trailer is below…

You can buy the film here…

Matthew Cooper has been a script writer for hire for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award winning episodes of Emmerdale, Eastenders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs. Matthew was winner of the first ever Lloyds Bank Channel Four Film Challenge, the Oscar Moore Screenplay Prize and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer. You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb. You can get in touch with Matthew on