To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Martin Scorsese’s early work, namely the gritty MEAN STREETS, the film has just been released in Limited Edition Dual 4K UHD and standard Blu-ray format. More personal drama than Mafia thriller, the story revolves around two young Italian-Americans (played by Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro), who live in New York’s ‘Little Italy’ neighbourhood and try to carve out an existence – each of them in a very different way.

Right from the opening scene, filmed in documentary style, we get an impression of the environment Charlie Cappa (Harvey Keitel) calls home: an ugly and downtrodden slice of Little Italy where gangsters, hookers, pimps, drug dealers, the downs and outs but also ordinary, law-abiding citizens live side by side. Despite Charlie’s link to the Mafia (his Uncle Giovanni is an almighty Mafioso), he has more honourable ambitions than his mobster family clan. His ambition is to open a restaurant one day - presumably a ramshackle hut which he needs to vamp up first. But he’s also a devout Catholic, and like most Catholics, Charlie suffers from all sorts of guilt complexes – most of all because his conscience tells him that what Uncle Giovanni (Cesare Danova) and his ilk are up to is wrong, wrong, wrong…! On the other hand, his uncle and his mobsters are part of the ‘family’ and one must never go against the family. Of course, Charlie would like nothing more than to say “ciao” to Uncle Giovanni, but his financial situation (he’s pretty much skint throughout) plus his dream of one day owning his own restaurant demands that he ‘works’ as a collector for Giovanni’s protection racket a little longer.

Then there’s Charlie’s buddy John Civello (Robert De Niro), nicknamed ‘Johnny Boy’ who is almost the opposite in more ways than one: Johnny, a foul-mouthed thug with a rotten temper, hasn’t done an honest job in his life by the looks of it. Instead, he prefers to try his luck in gambling though unfortunately for him, he never wins and thus owes increasing amounts of money to loan sharks – one of them being Michael (Richard Romanus), with whom Johnny has a fall-out thanks to his bad temper and even worse for Johnny, it is a fall-out that will have dire consequences…

The majority of the plot revolves around the unlikely friendship between Johnny and Charlie, with the latter a calming influence whenever Johnny Boy, a loose cannon at the best of times, jeopardises those around him with his reckless behaviour.
Once again, Charlie doesn’t necessarily want to be pals with Johnny Boy but during the course of the movie, we begin to understand that both men are victims of their brutal environment more than they are victims of their own making. Add to that Charlie’s romance with Teresa Ronchelli (Amy Robinson), an epileptic who happens to be Johnny’s cousin and we’ll know that Charlie seems destined to remain in this circle of hell. Often, fights and various other scenes are laced with a dynamic soundtrack from the likes of The Ronettes, The Shirelles, The Rolling Stones, Smokey Robinson and others.

What particularly stands out is Kent L. Wakeford’s cinematography and the overall vibe, which comes across like a slice of reality TV, during which we are allowed to take a look at this ruthless milieu. Semi-domestic scenes are interspersed with random violence, such as a nasty fight in a pool hall owned by Joey (George Memmoli), another bent individual with whom Johnny Boy has encounters of the unpleasant kind. There’s also a particularly shocking and unexpected scene involving
David Carradine and his real-life younger brother Robert, while director Scorsese himself briefly appears as loan shark Michael’s henchman ‘Jimmy Shorts’ in the film’s climax.
Keitel and De Niro are superb in their respective roles, never coming across as though acting a part but as if they’d belong to this sordid ‘hood and that’s their life.

Special Features include audio commentaries, interviews, documentary, archive featurettes and trailer, whereas the Limited Edition release has additional special features like slipcase, 178-page booklet, plus 8 collector’s art cards.