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6,893 Ratings

Once Upon a Time in America

Directed by Sergio Leone
United States, Italy, 1984
Drama, Crime


After growing up in the Jewish ghetto of New York City and rising up to become a powerful player in Prohibition-era organized crime, an aging gangster returns to Brooklyn to revisit his past in director Sergio Leone’s epic final film.

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Once Upon a Time in America Directed by Sergio Leone
At its worst (the middle hour) it’s uninspired gangster scrapes, and the childhood scenes – which I used to think were the high-point – clearly suffer from some bad juvenile acting, but the overall sense of elegy still (just about) carries it. Funny how De Niro’s inert performance was acclaimed as a revelation at the time, whereas now it’s just the same grumpy middle-aged guy he’s been playing for the past 15 years.
February 01, 2013
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As Noodles steps into the tomb, Leone’s camera makes endlessly, possibly pointlessly, choreographed long maneuvers, and the music swells, turning its soapiest. Here was a filmmaker who specialized in pure, blistering images, and this operatic earthiness just doesn’t play as well as the horrifying, salacious stuff.
November 21, 2012
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Once Upon a Time in America begins and ends in an opium den; everything that happens after this point in the non-linearly-presented timeline may be a hallucination. Besides introducing this narrative ambiguity, De Niro’s stupor mirrors the viewer experience. America’s pacing pleasures are narcotic, creating a strong sense of time passing, crucial for endowing the final flashback montage with recalled resonance for patient viewers. Crudities and all, America earns its scope.
November 20, 2012
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