Filmsite Movie Review
Mean Streets (1973)
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Plot Synopsis (continued)

Mean Streets (1973)At the bar and within her dressing room - to the tune of "You" by the Aquatones, Charlie revealed his liking for black stripper Diane: ("I really think, uh, you're a terrific performer") - he promised to help her career as a respectable hostess in his Mafia-promised take-over of a bankrupt restaurant: ("In a little while, I'm gonna have the opportunity of openin' my own place. Much nicer. Much nicer than this. Uptown, sort of a nightclub restaurant and everything. And uhm, I was thinkin' you'd do much. You'd do very nicely for the place...As the hostess...You know, the people come in, you greet 'em and you show 'em to the tables"). They shared a date for Chinese food, but then he became wary of being recognized in a taxi in the Village with her.

Charlie also faced pressure from his highly-respected Mafia boss Uncle Giovanni (Cesare Danova) whom he met at a classy Italian restaurant. Charlie was urged to stay away from both "half-crazy" and unstable Johnny Boy - and also from Teresa solely because she was epileptic!:

You're still around that kid Johnny Boy. This Johnny Boy is named after me. Nice, huh?...But this Johnny Boy is a little bit like your friend, Groppi -- half-crazy. I understand you try to help him out because of our family and his family. Well, that's nice. I understand. But watch yourself, don't spoil anything. Honorable men go with honorable men. Don't forget that. And also, his whole family has problems. His cousin, the girl who lives next door to you...The one who's sick in the head.

Charlie corrected him: "No, she's got epilepsy." Giovanni stated his guidelines for Charlie with Johnny Boy and Teresa: "You live next door. Keep an eye open. But don't get involved." However, Charlie kept company with both of them - he was determined to 'save' Johnny Boy (as his challenging road to salvation) and to retain his secret relationship with Teresa.

Due to Giovanni's demands and his own inner conflicts, Charlie placed his hand sacrificially into the flames of the Italian restaurant's kitchen stove, to the tune of Betty Everett's "It's in His Kiss." Then, he yelled at Teresa in her adjoining apartment, to meet him downstairs. He announced that he was temporarily breaking up with her: "I can't make it tonight....I can't make it Friday either...I can't see you for a while." He explained the pressure that he was under, and his fear that his (and their) ambitious future might be ruined:

Charlie: "Because you are f--kin' things up! Between you and Johnny, you're gonna ruin everything for me."
Teresa: "Ruin what?...Why am I ruining everything?"
Charlie: "...Listen to me for a minute. My uncle's got me on to run a restaurant that I want, but I gotta stay away from you and Johnny."

He claimed his Uncle didn't know about their relationship, or Johnny's loan indebtedness. Charlie affirmed his love for Teresa, nonetheless: "I don't want to stop seein' you... (They kissed after she told him "I love you," but he couldn't repeat the words to her) Just let me get the restaurant first, all right? Then I think things are gonna be easier."

Later, Charlie was seen becoming sloppy drunk during a private homecoming party at the bar for a returning Vietnam Vet Soldier (Harry Northup). On his hands and knees on the bar, he was aiming at shot glasses with a pool cue, and spraying others with seltzer water. Then, to the tune of The Chips' "Rubber Biscuit" - with a tremendous close-up of his face - he drunkenly staggered through the bar area. The woozy POV camera shots recreated the sensations of intoxication, and followed him as he tipped over and fell to the floor. When Charlie awoke from his stupor, Mikey was demanding the loan from Johnny Boy that now had skyrocketed to $3,000 dollars due to late payments and interest. Charlie bargained with Mikey to get the amount reduced to $2,000 dollars ("Where's he gonna come up with $3,000, huh? Let's work somethin' out"). Mikey was becoming violent in his demands to be repaid:

If that kid thinks he's makin' a jerk off outta me, I'm gonna break his legs...On next payday, I'm comin' down here to Tony's. Johnny Boy better show or I'm gonna find him and I'm gonna break his f--kin' legs. We understand each other?

The party ended violently, when the soldier Jerry, suffering presumably from PTSD, inexplicably attacked one of the girls (Juli Andelman) on the dance floor. He was restrained as shouts were heard: "Jerry, take it easy! We're in America, Jerry!", and the jukebox was jolted as they calmed him down. After the attack, Charlie slow-danced with the assaulted girl to comfort her, to the tune of "Pledging My Love," by Johnny Ace.

Charlie was alerted by Teresa who entered the bar, warning that the volatile Johnny Boy was violently overacting and causing further tension. He had been spotted on a rooftop on a nearby corner building for half an hour, where he was raging at life by shooting with a .38 Special at the lights of the Empire State Building. Then, he incoherently shouted an apology to a woman who ran for cover from his wild gunfire: ("Hey, lady, I'm sorry. Lady, I didn't mean it, I swear to God! I'm very sorry...I hate that lady. I tried to get her clothesline"). He claimed he was only trying to wake up the dead neighborhood ("I wasn't shootin' at nobody. Just up in the air. I want to wake up the neighborhood. It's dead. I hate that woman with a vengeance, a passion"), but Charlie was more concerned about Teresa's reaction: "You have Teresa half-crazy about this."

He was able to get Johnny Boy off the roof, and they fled to a nearby cemetery where they used to play hide-and-seek. As they walked through, Charlie reprimanded Johnny Boy for skipping his manual labor job (loading crates) in the last week. Johnny Boy irresponsibly claimed that his arm and hand were hurting, and that it was hard work compared to Charlie's cushy job. Charlie threatened: "You go to work tomorrow or I'll break both your arms. We understand each other?" He stressed how important it was show up on his next Tuesday payday to clear his debt with Michael:

On payday, at least show up at Tony's place to meet him, okay? This way he doesn't think that you're tryin' to make a jerk off out of him... Hey, I'm not askin' ya, I'm tellin' ya!

Prophetically, Johnny Boy was lying prone on one of the cemetery's gravestones.

The next day, Charlie promised Mikey (and his henchman-hitman, Jimmy Shorts (director Martin Scorsese)) that he had persuaded Johnny Boy to show up that evening. Mikey threatened what would happen if Johnny Boy didn't come:

I'm tellin' ya, Charlie, that kid doesn't show up tonight, I'm gonna find him. I'm gonna drag him down here. I'm gonna tie one of his legs to that Cadillac bumper over there. I'm gonna tie the other to the Ford. And, boom!

When evening came, Teresa spoke to Charlie in his adjacent apartment, and reiterated her strong wish for him to eventually move in with her in an uptown apartment, to improve their lives. He exploded in rage at her: "Enough with that apartment already, alright! I don't want to hear anymore! I got enough on my hands right now with that bastard cousin of yours. You want to move, go on, move. But leave me out of it!" He projected his frustrations onto Teresa, when he was really worried about Johnny Boy, who was an hour and a half late to a scheduled meeting with Mikey. Then, he apologized for being so harsh: "Teresa, I didn't mean that, but we've got a situation right now."

Meanwhile, Johnny Boy raised his fists against the dark night skies and heaven from a rooftop, and then suddenly appeared at Charlie's fire-escape window. Charlie expressed his exasperation:

Where were you?...What's the matter with you?...You're about an hour and a half late, you know that?!... Michael's waitin' for us. Did you forget or what? Your cousin was gettin' sick worryin' about you.

Tempers began to flare when Johnny Boy teased them about getting engaged, and then asked an absurdly inappropriate and insulting question in the apartment hallway, on the landing near the stairway:

I've always wondered about her. This is the God's honest truth. I always wondered about what happens when she comes. She get a fit? What happens when she comes, I mean --

Charlie began slapping Johnny Boy's face, and the two got into a climactic fist-fight when Johnny Boy raged back: "You dirty, low-life f--kin' bastard! Don't you ever hit me again! Don't! Alright, I think I am gonna tell your uncle." Charlie yelled back: "Go ahead. Go on right now...I'll tear your f--kin' eyes outta your head!" Johnny Boy reacted: "Now, I'm gonna kill you bastard!" When Teresa tried to break them up, she began to experience an epileptic attack and fell to the floor. Johnny Boy was unwilling to help: "Hey, how should I know? She's your f--kin' girl," and he ran from the building. Incredibly, instead of attending to his distressed girlfriend, Charlie left her in the care of an elderly woman (Scorsese's own mother Catherine, identified in the credits as 'Woman on Landing'), as he chased after Johnny Boy.

Out on the street, Charlie caught up with Johnny Boy and warned him: "Don't show up tonight. We'll see what happens to you." He again refused to intervene with his uncle. Together, they pooled together $30 dollars to give to Michael, and walked over to Tony's bar. There, as they waited for Michael to return, to the tune of "Baby Oh Baby" by The Shells, Charlie chatted with a Jewish girl named Joyce (Lois Walden), and ended up involved in a brief scuffle with another man over her attention.

These circumstances culminated with the most troublesome confrontation of the film. In a volatile loan argument sequence, loan shark Michael demanded: "Where's the rest?" when Johnny Boy was short on his loan repayment and only offered a $10 bill (even less than the $30 dollars Charlie said he had). Mikey rolled the bill in his hands and tossed it back. Johnny Boy then made a series of insulting comments:

What's the matter? You too good for this ten dollars? Huh? You too good for it? It's a good ten dollars. You know somethin', Mikey, you make me laugh. You know that? You know, I borrow money all over this neighborhood, left and right from every body, and I never pay 'em back. So, I can't borrow no money from nobody no more, right? So who does that leave me to borrow money from but you? I borrow money from you because you're the only jerk off around here that I could borrow money from without payin' back, right? Right? You know, 'cause that's what you are, that's what I think of you: a jerk-off. You're smilin'. Like you're a jerk-off. You're a f--kin' jerk-off! You're a f--kin' jerk-off. And I'll tell 'ya something else, Mikey. (Johnny Boy lit the $10 bill on fire) I f--k you right where you breathe, 'cause I don't give two s--ts about you or nobody else.

When Mikey lunged at him, Johnny Boy foolishly brandished his gun, and disrespectfully taunted him with more derogatory insults. He threatened to pull the trigger:

Come on, Come on, f--k face! Come on. Come on. I got somethin' for ya, 'ya motherf--ker! Come on! Come on! Come on! Motherf--ker! I'm a big-shot. Come on. Come on! Come on! D.D., disappointed dunce-ski. Right, asshole! Come on. Come on!

Michael dared him: "You don't, you don't have the guts, you don't have the guts to use that," inciting Johnny Boy even further:

I don't, huh? I don't have the guts. Come on, asshole. Come over here, come over here, I'll put this up your ass! (Michael exited) Hey asshole, this is for you asshole! He's a f--kin' asshole!

Charlie was incensed by his brother's reckless actions - especially after learning there were no bullets in the gun ("Now ya did it!").

To get out of town until things calmed down, Tony offered Charlie his car. To the tune of "Mickey's Monkey" by The Miracles, Johnny Boy performed a carefree, herky-jerky lingering little dance before entering the getaway car with Charlie. To escape, they first went to the movies and watched the Roger Corman-directed British horror film The Tomb of Ligeia (1964, UK).

[Note: The scene was the concluding burning tomb scene with multiple plot twists, when a delusional Verden Fell (Vincent Price) mistakenly strangled his second wife Lady Rowena Trevanion (Elizabeth Shepherd) in the flaming death chamber of the ruins of his monastery-abbey. The incident occurred when Verden's beautiful, deceased, dark-haired wife Ligeia (also played by Shepherd) approached him from her tomb and called out his name: "Verden, Verden." After 'Ligeia' fell dead, he was told that he had just strangled Rowena in his arms, not Ligeia: "But that's Rowena's body. It's Rowena!" Verden disagreed: "But it was Ligeia. It was Ligeia....Think me mad, think whatever you will, but leave this abbey now. I know who is responsible. Take Rowena out of here." Afterwards, Verden fought off the ever-present black cat (possessing the spirit of Ligeia, who had been tormenting and taunting Rowena), and was blinded by the claws of the creature. He was able to strangle the cat as he (and the cat) both perished in the all-consuming flames (of Hell?) and collapsing ruins of the abbey. As a result of their deaths, Rowena opened her eyes and came to life outside the abbey.]

The film concluded with a retributive drive-by shooting sequence as Charlie attempted to drive Johnny Boy to safety, in order to redeem himself. Driver Charlie was accompanied by Teresa (in the middle of the front seat) and Johnny Boy at the window, on their way to Greenwood Lake. Charlie continued to refuse Johnny Boy's suggestion to talk to his uncle. He offered a spoken thought-prayer to God:

I guess you could safely say that things haven't gone so well tonight. But I'm tryin', Lord. I'm tryin'.

As Teresa laughed, Johnny Boy harshly and critically asked: "What, are ya talkin' to yourself?"

Lost in the "jungle" of Brooklyn, Charlie drove through a red light, and then suddenly, a second moving car driven by Michael pulled along side for a lethal ambush. Michael cued his hitman Jimmy Shorts in the backseat to begin firing with the words: "Now's the time!" Shorts kissed his gun and then aimed his weapon at the adjacent car.

To the tune of "Steppin'' Out" by John Mayall's Bluesbusters, six shots were fired point-blank at Charlie's car, hitting Johnny Boy in the side of the neck (causing arterial spray) and Charlie in the arm/hand. It also caused Teresa's fist to fly through the front windshield, and prompted Charlie's car to spin out and crash into a fire hydrant. With a bloodied arm and hand, Charlie stumbled and lurched from the car, surrendered himself, and fell to his knees in the wet street. [Note: There was a brief clip, being watched by Uncle Giovanni, of the car-bombing scene in Fritz Lang's film noir The Big Heat (1953), when innocent wife Katie (Jocelyn Brando) was killed in the blast, and dragged from the burning car by her police detective husband Sergeant Dave Bannion (Glenn Ford).] Seriously-wounded Johnny Boy also staggered down the street holding his neck, as a police car drove up. Still alive with a cut scalp and injured hand, Teresa was extricated from the car by EMTs as Charlie was loaded into the back of an ambulance. All three appeared to survive with serious injuries for the time being, although Johnny Boy's injury would probably prove to be fatal, and Charlie's fate was likely to be an unresolved future in exile.

The film's distant final shot was of an unidentified elderly woman (the same woman who had aided Teresa during her fit) inside an apartment building closing the window and screen, as spoken words from the conclusion of the San Gennaro Feast were heard on Michael's car radio: "Good luck and God bless you."

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