Robert De Niro’s lasting partnership with Martin Scorsese began with the filmmaker’s breakthrough third feature, an electrifying and unforgettable depiction of small-time thugs in Little Italy that established much of what was to come in both artists’ careers. Harvey Keitel, an alum of Scorsese’s student feature Who’s That Knocking at My Door?, is Charlie, an aspirant gangster seeking a middle ground between his profession and his efforts to lead a morally upright life. But his irrepressible friend Johnny Boy (De Niro) complicates matters with his anarchic behavior and debts to loan sharks. Raising hell as soon as he arrives on screen, De Niro is entirely at home as Scorsese’s young id of Mulberry Street—equal parts funny, ferocious, and frightening.
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