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DVD Reviews: Once Upon A Time in America

The Final Say!

Feature Score:
DVD Extras Score

Reviewed by Alex Cuming
Review Date: 28 June 2003
Distributed by:
Warner Home Entertainment
Running Time: 219 Minutes
APN: 325336 014707

Sergio Leone as the director of this film should be ashamed of the overtly sexually inappropriate misogyny that is seen throughout this film.  All kinds of distasteful content that is possible to see in its picture form is portrayed.  Whether it is rape or nude minors there is nothing left untouched by the editors.  I may be a little prude to point out such details but some things no adult really wants to see and it can be quite unsettling to watch and there is a lot of violence and even drug use!   

It is a controversial belief of this film that the whole story was just the figment of “Noodles” (Robert Deniro) opium dream. This was only hinted at using particular simple metaphorical elements such as the globes of lights, zooming in and out of focus to create the effect of the whole story being a dream.  We first see Noodles lying in a Chinese opium den smoking his way to oblivion.  From here the story is taken back to his past to his childhood as a mongrel street kid wandering around New York creating havoc.  These kids needless to say turn out to be gangsters and some serve time in prison for their incessant mayhem.  The gangsters who are seen depicted are further partly a figment are Jewish and they are terrifically ruthless to the citizens and law enforcers of New York.  This story is about their lives in this role and doing numerous jobs for the local Mafia. 

The violence of this film can be quite shocking both in its visual aspect and the suddenness of when it is struck.  It is not predictable and therefore shares similarities to some thrillers.  The opening scene that we see where a woman is shot will shock the audience in its violent character.  If that’s not enough to get the moral bells ringing then after that we see a man beaten within an inch of his life and then left, covered in blood. 

The other dodgy content that I have already mentioned is an embarrassment to viewers and insulting to think that this sort of content is some form of entertainment.  These scenes obviously were shown to shock the audience and therefore create an everlasting impact and burn the film on the retina for a long time to come.  I am certainly not saying that all violent films are bad but am saying there is a line that directors should not cross.  This line on the less offensive side can be done with style and grace whereas when the line is crossed to the morbidly explicit some directors don’t know when to stop! 

Overall the film was sometimes difficult to understand in the form that some elocution will be undecipherable on initial viewing.  The commentary is brilliant in the special Features and will be of interest to movie connoisseurs.

Once Upon a Time in America Features

  • Commentary


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