Once Upon a Time in America

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From the novel The Hoods by Harry Grey

A gangster returns to the Lower East Side where he grew up and started on his life of crime, hoping to put his past to rest.

This was one of our Zoom Movie Nights; during the lockdown in 2020, Mr. Otter, CoyoteRambles and I would set up a Zoom session, and after we had chatted a bit, would watch a movie while connected and talk about it afterwards. It was so much fun that we are continuing the movie nights indefinitely! We alternate choosing movies, and this was my choice; I’ve seen most of Sergio Leone’s movies, but always wanted to catch this one and never had. And I was not disappointed!

De Niro is a gangster who is haunted by his past, and that past (and his childhood) make up a large part of this movie; most of his young life is shown, with the present as a frame story and mystery about what actually happened to De Niro’s friends from the past.

This was so enjoyable! Not a typical mobster movie (and I had really expected a Godfather clone), but more of a character study framed by the question of what’s really going on in the future. The prohibition-era kids who will grow up to be gangsters are really good, and the fact that the film focuses so strongly on them makes it a much better viewing experience than it otherwise would have been.

Recommended by The Otter!

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