Saturday, 23 February 2013


Once Upon a Time in America - poster Director: Sergio Leone
Writers: Harry Grey (novel), Leonardo Benvenuti, Piero De Bernardi, Enrico Medioli, Franco Arcalli, Franco Ferrini & Sergio Leone
Running time: 229 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 18

Genre: Crime/Drama
Italy Release date: 28th September 1984

Watched on Sky+ Saturday 23rd February 2013.


This was Sergio Leone’s last film; and boy what an epic piece of work it is! I guess I have to say, for the record, that I have seen it before but it’s one of those films that stays with you for a very long time afterwards. Even though it’s been many years since I last saw it, I could still remember much of the plot as I was re-watching it. It was like re-acquainting myself with an old friend. But I digress; here’s an extremely brief summary before I give you my thoughts.

Once Upon a Time in America - 1 We are told the story of four friends; David ‘Noodles’ Aaronson (Robert De Niro), Maximilian ‘Max’ Bercovicz (James Woods), Patrick ‘Patsy’ Goldberg (James Hayden) and Philip ‘Cockeye’ Stein (William Forsythe). We learn how, from an early age, they find themselves involved in illegal activities and how this shapes their lives. We learn about their loves; Deborah Gelly (Elizabeth McGovern) among them; and the many people they do business with, including Frankie Manoldi (Joe Pesci). Oh, and I mustn’t forget Deborah’s brother, ‘Fat’ Moe Gelly (Larry Rapp); he has a part to play in all this as well. It’s mostly told in flashback as ‘Noodles’ returns to his old neighbourhood after thirty years in exile. It’s an epic tale with many twists and turns along the way; but in the end it does all make sense. Oh and look out for a young Jennifer Connelly as the young Deborah.

Once Upon a Time in America - 5 I first have to say I loved the story; it’s epic and no mistaking; very long, but never boring. Leone manages to keep it interesting despite quite a slow pace to the proceedings and quite a complex plot. Although I usually like the film music of Ennio Morricone, on this rare occasion I found the music a little too sentimental; particularly the pan pipe refrain. I loved the visual style of the film; it is almost like one of those old Leone spaghetti westerns in places; unmistakably his work! Despite all its good points though I found I did have to mark it down slightly just because it is so very long! At over three and a half hours (nearly four), it really does test even the most ardent film fan. I read that it was released in three separate parts in Russia! Over all though, I did very much enjoy it despite the length and the somewhat overly-sentimental musical score. Definitely worth a look (if you can spare the four hours or so).

SteelMonster’s verdict: RECOMMENDED

My score: 8.2/10.

IMDb Score: 8.4/10 (based on 126,937 votes when this review was written).

MetaScore: No Data: (Based on 0 critic reviews provided by at the time of going to press).

Once Upon a Time in America - 2 Rotten Tomatoes ‘Tomatometer’ Score: 87/100 (based on 38 reviews counted at the time of going to press).

Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 71/100 (based on 70,432 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).

If you’re crazy enough… You can find me on Facebook at:

Once Upon a Time in America - 9 FAVOURITE QUOTES:
[first lines]
[In 1933, two goons rudely question a young woman]
Beefy: Where is he? Where's he hiding?
Eve: I don't know... I've been looking for him since yesterday.
[second goon slaps her harshly; she falls onto the bed]
Beefy: I'm gonna ask you for the last time: Where is he?
Eve: I don't know... What are you gonna do to him?
[Two shots are heard]
Beefy: [to his partner] Stay here in case that rat shows up...

Fat Moe: When did you get back?
Noodles: Today.
Fat Moe: Why?
Noodles: They got in touch with me.
Fat Moe: Who?
Noodles: I thought you might know.
Fat Moe: Me? I don't know nothin' 'bout nobody no more.

Once Upon a Time in America - 7 [In 1968, Noodles meets a familiar figure in heavy make-up... ]
Noodles: Hello, Deborah.
[For a long time, Deborah is silent and still]
Noodles: Aren't you gonna say anything?
Deborah Gelly: What is someone supposed to say after... after more than thirty years?
Noodles: Well, how about "How're you doing? You look good." Or, "I was hoping I'd never see you again."
Deborah Gelly: I never thought I would. There's a difference.

[last lines]
Secretary Bailey: [checking his pocket watch] It's 10:25. And I've got nothing left to lose. When you've been betrayed by a friend, you hit back. Do it.
[Noodles is still and silent for a long time]
Noodles: You see, Mr Secretary... I have a story also, a little simpler than yours. Many years ago, I had a friend, a dear friend. I turned him in to save his life, but he was killed. But he wanted it that way. It was a great friendship. But it went bad for him, and it went bad for me too. Good night, Mr Bailey.
[He looks at the man in front of him for the last time]
Noodles: I hope the investigation turns out to be nothing. It'd be a shame to see a lifetime of work go to waste.

Once Upon a Time in America - 8 LINKS:
(Note: All were working at the time of going to press)
Official Site:

No comments: