Movie Review: No 80. Once Upon a Time in America

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Movie Review: No 80. Once Upon a Time in America

A small word of advice. Don’t watch this movie with your sister’s boyfriend.

“Why not?” I hear you ask. Well, because it’s one of the most awkwardly inappropes movies I’ve seen in a while and, if your sister’s boyfriend is anything like mine, it will be far too tempting for him to “Do a Jordan” and make the inappropriate moments a thousand times worse (or a thousand times more hilarious, depending on your perspective ;)).

‘Once Upon a Time in America’ is ‘Goodfellas‘ without the sense of humour. In fact, you might prefer to think of it as ‘Badfellas’. The only time I actually cracked a smile during the whole thing was thanks to one of Jordan’s classic “Jordans” (please refer to the image above).

Set in America’s prohibition era, this GANGSTER film’s attempt at introducing poetry to the seedy mob underworld is a lesson in applying lipstick to a squealing pig.

Noodles: We should have known, huh? You can always tell the winners at the starting gate. You can always tell the winners, and you can tell the losers.

‘Once Upon a Time in America’ is grating in the same way as its cousin, ‘Once Upon a Time in the West‘. The writer and director of both films, Sergio Leone, has got to win the “lack of creativity” prize for the film’s title at least. It even includes a panpipe equivalent of the harmonica player, and an almost homicide-inducing ringing telephone which continues to ring even after it has been picked up.

Worse still, this three hour and forty minute film has exactly three songs on its soundtrack:

  1. The Moulin Rouge theme
  2. The Karate Kid theme
  3. The “Disney Classic” theme

If you loved ‘Stand By Me’ and ‘Sleepers’ then you will tolerate this film. ‘Stand By Me’ is one of my all-time favourite films which (unsurprisingly) doesn’t make it to imdb’s Top 100 list. Probably because it’s actually enjoyable. I don’t simply prefer ‘Stand By Me’ because of its notable lack of gangsters (although it does include a gang). No, I prefer it because it didn’t take literally an hour and a half to get interesting. Jordan will back me up here. At 14 minutes in, nothing had actually happened, and it didn’t improve much over the next hour. At one point, the scene showed a descending elevator  and we jokingly said “Now we’ll have to watch 60 seconds of this elevator”… at which point we proceeded to watch 60 seconds of the elevator!

Why God? WHY?!

The film traces the lives of a group of boys who choose to live, and largely die, by the sword. Gratuitous sex (and rape) scenes punctuate this movie like a spray of Tommy Gun bullets. To say “There’s not much in it for the ladies” is putting it lightly, although it does star a young Lady Grantham… if that helps.

There was exactly one scene in the film that I enjoyed, and that was watching the boys dish out “fate” to the unsuspecting little newborn babies – A scene almost worthy of a whole movie to itself.

Am I biased? Probably. But if you came here to get a balanced account then you’ve obviously never read one of my reviews before. When I honestly say, however, that this epic monstrosity is the “Lord of the Rings of Gangster Films”, I’m pretty sure it’s going to make some of you want to watch it more – and that’s great. Just like I’d probably lose my tiny little mind if you warned me that a film was the “Ace Ventura of coming-of-age films”. Each to their own – and you can keep this one my friends.

I’m told the film received a 15 minute standing ovation at Cannes, but I’m convinced that’s because people were just glad it was over. If De Niro’s smile in the closing credits was anything to go by – he was glad it was over too.

6.5 pumpkins.

Have you seen ‘Once Upon a Time in America’? Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments below.

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4 responses »

  1. LOL – I love your ending here about the standing ovation! I’ve never seen this and I probably never will (even if hubby decides it’s a ‘must watch’ for a Sunday afternoon) 😉

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