Customer Reviews


182 Reviews
5 star:
 (117)
4 star:
 (29)
3 star:
 (14)
2 star:
 (12)
1 star:
 (10)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece no matter what anyone says
Yes, the film is four hours long, and yes, there is an hour and a half flashback sequence. But don't let this ward you way from what is truly a masterpiece of a gangster flick. The flashback itself is engrossing and endearing. If you love movies, if you love great acting, if you love history, this is the epic for you.
'Once Upon a Time in America' is a film about...
Published on July 11 2004 by wannabemoviecritic

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Even in death and DVD Leone still can't get a good edit.
Once again Sergio Leone proves that he is the master of the classically "American" genre film, this time training his exquisite eye from the Western to the gangster film...gangster EPIC, actually.
>
This movie takes place via disjointed flashbacks over a period of fifty years, focusing on the life (and death) of crime as experienced by four...
Published on Sept. 29 2003 by Johnny Sideburns


‹ Previous | 1 219 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece no matter what anyone says, July 11 2004
Yes, the film is four hours long, and yes, there is an hour and a half flashback sequence. But don't let this ward you way from what is truly a masterpiece of a gangster flick. The flashback itself is engrossing and endearing. If you love movies, if you love great acting, if you love history, this is the epic for you.
'Once Upon a Time in America' is a film about a group of four friends who have grown up together in New York City since the turn of the century. They grew up around crime and took part in it themselves. 'America' doesn't focus on the truly criminal aspects of the tale, though; nor does it glorify violence in any way. In a genius move, director Sergio Leone portrays how crime influences this tough, beautiful, but delicate friendship.
This brings me to the famously long flashback. Anyone who tells you it is boring, unimportant and relentless was obviously not paying attention. They must also have a short attention span, for the portrayel of the four main characters' childhood is at times beautiful, elegiac and hilarious. It tells a timeless tale of the central character in the film, Noodles (later played by Robert DeNiro), and his obsession with the local beauty (a young Jennifer Conally, later played by Elizabeth McGovern) who refuses to love him because he'll "always be a two-bit punk." It reminisces on the constant loss of virginities to the town prostitute who makes love for the price of one pastry (what accompanies this story line is a legendary scene where a young teenager succumbs to the temptation of his pastry gift). And it ends in one of the film's most emotional moments that proves you must have a strong stomach to really pay attention and/or appreciate the film to full extent. It is quite hard to watch not because of any sort of violence, but because of its emotional rawness ending in a near cataclysmic incident.
This carries over into the rest of the film, dotted with modern day looks at Noodles and his three friends who are dead at the beginning of the film. After his mental journey through the past, he searches in real life for the love of his life, played by Elizabeth McGovern. What ensues is a twist, one of the best in cinematic history (that I've seen, anyway). You won't be disappointed.
What is masterful about all of these storylines, flashbacks and flashforwards is the extent of their depth. Leone accompanies each detail with an unforgettable emotional truth that extends deep into each character's (and our own) psyche. And for those who love history, Leone sets this saga in the days of prohibition, which offers the four friends an occupation, of sorts.
Apart from the amazing depth in character and story, the production values are top notch, with glorious sets, cinematography and editing. And don't forget the delicacy of the writing and direction. It all works together so well on so many levels.
So to those who have strong stomachs (there are bouts of intense violence) and those who are not too young (this is definitely not a family film, as it portrays some graphic sexuality) and also those who are in love with cinema, I recommend 'Once Upon a Time in America.' Oh, and make sure you have a good attention span. This is not a short movie by any means, although it zips by in the best sense.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest movies ever made., May 7 2004
By 
Dhaval Vyas (Dallastown, PA U.S.A) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
'Once Upon a Time in America', simply put, is the best gangster movie I've ever seen and is one of the greatest movies ever made. The entire film seems like long, beautiful, and scary dream. By the end of the story, I felt like I witnessed the entrie lives of the characters. I felt like I understood their every feeling and emotion, their joys and sadness. Moviemaking is rarely this magical or this tragic.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We are lucky..., Aug. 12 2003
This review is from: Once Upon a Time in America (Two-Disc Special Edition) (DVD)
... that Hollywood is not the only movie making in the world. I think they don't have realized yet that McCarthy is not any longer very trendy, and that they're not invested by God the right of deciding by themselves what people should see.
The only flaw (for me) is the casting of E. McGovern, who, although otherwise a fine actress, is an absolute mismatch for Jennifer Connelly as the young Deborah.
For those who complain about some DVD transfer quality problems, I could not even get the 2nd DVD working after 'Intermission', but I could get them both working without any trouble on another DVD drive set on region 4: another fine example of the nonsense in regional coding (Hollywood Code, Regional Codes, and I don't think they'll stop there if they're left in charge of the ruling), since both of the discs are not supposed to be played by anything else than a zone 1 DVD.
I think as well that the splitting (unavoidable with almost 4 hours) should have been done by someone who liked this movie and could have therefore thought of doing the cutting either at the beginning or at the end of the scene which they cut (and not because they could not pack one more second of footage): that's unforgivable, and it's only a proof of the lack of consideration for this movie or its viewers.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece of the genre, Feb. 22 2004
By 
cvairag (Allan Hancock College) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Once Upon a Time in America (Two-Disc Special Edition) (DVD)
Against the setting of the roots of organized crime in New York, Sergio Leone has given us an unforgettable epic, about lost opportunities, the price of dreams, the cost of power and success, and the nature of damnation. The story, based on an obscure novel, The Hoods, evolves around the rivalry/friendship of two childhood friends (DeNiro and Woods), and the empire which evolves around this increasing center of tension.
Although I have issues with the credibility of a few of the performances which creates a certain uneveness (Sergio L was rumored at the time to be in agreement) and what come off as seeming contrivances of plot (which are to an extent, I believe, in some ways due to the cuts and the editing), the film includes what I consider to be Tuesday Weld's last great moments on the screen, and DeNiro's performance is understated and spectacular (this is the film with which he followed up Raging Bull).
I was fortunate to see the original cut (225 min+) on the big screen, when it opened at the Plitt in L.A. in early summer of 1984 (i.e., before its release to the general public . I have not seen the restored cut on DVD. However, as I remember, the film is a thing of beauty as cinema (the EYE-talian visual magic) and you won't forget how it ends.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Sergio Leone's final masterpiece, Jan. 18 2004
By 
N. Durham "Big Evil" (Philadelphia, PA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Once Upon a Time in America (Two-Disc Special Edition) (DVD)
Sergio Leone's final sprawling epic is finally presented in all it's restored glory on this 2-disc DVD. Once Upon a Time in America tells the story of four childhood friends who find their way into the world of organized crime; specifically from the viewpoint of Noodles (Robert De Niro) as he reminisces as an old man. At 229 minutes, this is the longest cut of the film to ever see the light of day, and while some may see Once Upon a Time in America as an exercise in indulgence (and let's face it, it can be at some points) one can't deny the lasting power of Leone's final film. It may not achieve the same type of greatness as The Godfather, Goodfellas, etc.; but Once Upon a Time in America was in it's day, just like Gangs of New York is today, an underrated masterpiece. The DVD itself is poorly constructed however. The film is split into two parts, mostly because of the feature length commentary by film historian Richard Schickel, but Warner Bros. could have done a much better job. We get an excerpt of a documentary about Leone, but why wasn't the whole thing included on here? Just like they did with their earlier 2-disc re-releases of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, True Romance, and Unforgiven; Warner Bros. has crafted another disappointing DVD set.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Elegiac Dreamscape, Nov. 26 2003
By 
safira (United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Once Upon a Time in America (Two-Disc Special Edition) (DVD)
By all means watch this 227 minute 2-disc special edition instead of the superedited shorter version. From what I've read an American film company cout 80 minutes = 1/3 to director Sergio Leone's horror, citing that his 10-year dram/masterwork/tribute to America was "barbarously massacred".

OUATIA was previewed in 1984 to American test audeinces & greedy studio heads fearing bad box office in a fast-paced culture assumed Americans would not want to sit thrgouh over 3 hours and 45 minutes & so edited it themselves (Leone wanted nothing to do w/editing it). Consequently, it did not receive the praise it did at Cannes, Britain, and Europe becuase those audiences and the rest of the world saw the full diretcctor's version; North American was the only country that did not show the original version & of course the oscards ignored it. I don't rememer hearing about this movie in 84 becuse of bad marketing but I decieded to watch it recently as I want to see all of Robert De Niro's films.

I will be honest hahere and say that upon first viewing I gave up on it and kept fast forwarding & was angered at the violence ans sexism. I gave it another viewing and am glad I did. I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 because its hard to enjoy a film where the few females characters have positions of being prostitues or mistresses and are subjected to rape & abuse . But I do like that Leone did not sugarcoat his characters & risked allientating his audience for the sake of realization.

Ennio Morriccone's majestic orchestral score (especially the strings & pan flute) is hauntingly delicious in this gangster epic & is in itself an important character. I love Italian film music and this score is one of the most touching I have heard. There is good use of the Beatles's Yesterday as Noodles waxes nostalgic. The music is partially what caused me to give this anoher chance. There is pleasing cineamatography as its shot in NY, Toronto, Rome, Venice & Paris. I especially liked the transition shots like when the frisbee flies.

OUATIA has an uconventional narrative starting in 1933, jumping to 1968 and then back to 1923 so it will take more than one viewing to figure out whats going on . I like it when movies are longs so you are shown more of the characters and I wish it were longer! De Niro gives anoher qualiaty performance & his face is the center piece although I can't see him as a jeewish gangster but Italian. He has his head shaved for when he plays the older Noodles and gained weight so he's not as atractive in those scenes but is credible as a slower older man who is weighted by overwhelming guilt. De Niro fans will like the "coffee" scene! Leone's epic seems to stand still in time while he stirs his coffee for what seems like an eternity while the others anxiously watch to see what he will do next. Classic De Niro moment.

The young actors playing the young gang in the 30's did a great job, especially Scott Tiler, who played young Noodles exploring first love except he & De Niro do not look alike. Noodles' youthful character is more energetic & expressive than DeNiro's who gives an understated, controlled low emotional performance of quiet strength. DeNiro is still sexy in a hat! Borsalinos here & very striking in a tux. As boys, the gang are not that likable as they commit petty & as adults are even more unlikeable w/little morality so there is no hero but its refreshing that there is not that hollywood sterotype of good person vsx villain here. De Niro's Noodles is romantic & sort of an antihero until he becomes a rapist. Ther is an especially must-see romantic scene where he reunites w/his long-time love & arranges an orchestra to play their song in a ballroom by the ocean! but the tone chages when he rapes her later. Whey he does this & has such sexual hostility is not explained.

This film is about friendship, memory, time, youthful innocence lost, unrequited love and regret. Time is a characger w/the interweaving of flashbacks. I wish Leone had chosen another actor to play Max or gotten rid of the character as it wasnt enoyable to look a Woods & hear his rages for 4 hours. Why would Tuesday Weld's Carol want to stay w/this ugly hothead? Why would NOodles be so bonded w/this mean person he would go to jail for him? We are subjected to hearing him abuse Carol to leave a room and he abuses Noodles 2 times. Noodles does not have the desire for crime as the gang & he recollects on a violent mispent past he sadly wasn't able to extricate himself from.

This ambitious film raises more questions than it answers. I did not understand the ending & what is really going on. IsS this an opium-induced hallucination? I love Mullhollnad Drive & it has a similar theme. What about De Niro's mysterious stained smile at the end? (another classic Bobby D moment). Does that mean his fear & guilt are absolved?. Did max bewy Noodles & try to have him gunned down? Ther is a lot of detail in the recreation of 1930's NY & UOATIA will take you on a journey thorugh time & one man's memories.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Amazing film! Stupid DVD!, Nov. 26 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Once Upon a Time in America (Two-Disc Special Edition) (DVD)
The first disc ends at the worst possible place. And if that ain't enough, the intermission comes 5 or 6 chapters into the 2nd disc. Who...made this DVD???...This is by far the most sloppy, unprofessional, stupid, careless DVD's I've ever seen. The extras (with the exception of a very interesting and wonderful commentary) are pretty lame too.
Anyway, gripes aside. OUATIA is a very unknown, underrated, under-appreciated marvel of an epic gangster film. Why is this film stuck living in the shadows while mediocre, boring, overrated films like Raging Bull get all the praise? Don't get me wrong, I love RB, but come on. Compare it to this extraordinary masterpiece. Maybe now that it's released in it's entirety, it'll finally get the respect it deserves... (too bad it took this long, though). I just wish this was one of those films that got parodied by shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy. Nothing would give me greater satisfaction than a nice, witty OUATIA reference. But alas, it will probably never happen, and a very select few would actually get it. Sad. Sadder than this DVD.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars It is about time!! GREAT MOVIE, Nov. 11 2003
By 
Mitch Weaver (Houston, TX) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Once Upon a Time in America (Two-Disc Special Edition) (DVD)
Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time in America" was released almost 20 years ago, and it is still one of my all time favorite films. The film spans over a period of 20 years. The characters - Max, Noodles, Cockeye, Patsy, and Fat Moe, all grew up in the violent immigrant ghetto of New York's lower east side. The tough streets forced the group of friends to grow up fast, which in turn forces them to fight their way to the top. All of them vow to stick together. The story fastforwards 20 years into the future where childhood friends Max ( James Woods) and Noodles (Robert De Niro) form a partnership to run a powerful crime organization along with the rest of their childhood buddies -Cockeye (William Forsythe), Patsy ( James Hayden), and Fat Moe(Larry Rapp). However as time passes, things start to spin out of control, and the partnership between Max and Noodles unravels in death and mystery...
"Once Upon a Time in America" utilizes the four basic traits of human nature - friendship, crime, love, and betrayal, to create one of the most dramatic and rich stories ever captured on screen. The entire cast - Robert De Niro, James Woods, William Forsythe, Elizabeth McGovern, Treat Williams, Larry Rapp, James Hayden, Joe Pesci, and Danny Aiello were all unbelieveable and each helped to bring the story to life. However, the best performances given in my opinion were by the young actors that were chosen to play the characters as children. Their performances meant the most to the film, because that was the age when the tragic pattern of the characters lives were set. This film marked the first time appearance of Jennifer Connely, and even then at the age of 14, you could tell that she was a fantastic actress. Sergio Leone drew inspiration from the New York ghetto photographs of Jacob Riis. The authenticity that the photos provided to the settings was absolutely outstanding, and were the film's best feature.
The actors, well developed story, and stunning authenticity really provide for a wonderful film. "Once Upon A Time in America" offers a look at the dark side of the American dream that you can watch time and time again. Not to mention the fact, that this film finally came out on DVD!! If there was ever a film that deserved the special treatment of a DVD, it was this one. The movie is finally available with the best picture and sound quality available and we don't have to sit through the grainy picture of a videocasette either. This 2 Disc DVD set truly is a must buy!!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars the persistence of memory, Oct. 28 2003
By 
D. Friedman (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Once Upon a Time in America (Two-Disc Special Edition) (DVD)
To summarize my interest in this movie, there is one scene and one dramatic device that I would refer to: (1) DeNiro peering through the hole in the bathroom wall to watch the young Jennifer Conolly dance in the storeroom at Fat Moe's, and (2) the phone ringing incessantly.
These are but two of many interesting techniques Sergio Leone uses to drive the narrative arc of this movie.
The movie is maddening for some, because of its unusually slow pace and its insistence on music defining the time period in which a given scene occurs. While these are interesting techniques, and they are somewhat maddening to the viewer more accustomed to the frenetic pace of Legally Blond and its hectic ilk, they are not techniques unique to Leone, and, even if they were they are remarkably effective.
After all, this is a movie about a man's interior dialogue with himself. The frustrating question, for which we don't have an answer is: Does Noodle's dialogue take place in the late 60s when he is middle-aged, or does his interior dialogue occur in his mid-20s. The latter, of course, implies that most of the movie is either recollection of the past or conjecture about the future, while the former implies that almost all the movie is recollection of the past. That either of these two interpretations can be deduced from the movie's narrative structure is testament to the brilliant conceit that Leone creates here: the only thing persistent in life is our memories (an idea to which Marcel Proust refers repeatedly).
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3.0 out of 5 stars Even in death and DVD Leone still can't get a good edit., Sept. 29 2003
This review is from: Once Upon a Time in America (Two-Disc Special Edition) (DVD)
Once again Sergio Leone proves that he is the master of the classically "American" genre film, this time training his exquisite eye from the Western to the gangster film...gangster EPIC, actually.
>
This movie takes place via disjointed flashbacks over a period of fifty years, focusing on the life (and death) of crime as experienced by four childhood friends, specifically David "Noodles" Aaronson, portrayed in maturity by Robert DeNiro in another typically inspired performance.
>
The movie in its American release nearly 20 years ago was absolutely butchered by the US-based distributor, with over an hour of footage removed from the feature in order to make it more managable for US audiences. The result was that the personality of the movie was essentially siphoned off and the film was savaged by film critics nationwide. When the movie was released for cable a year or so later, a fair bit of the footage was restored (and in fact another edit presented the film exclusively in chronological order from Noodles' youth to old age).
>
This restored version does include as much as the film's original footage as can be accounted for (to our knowledge), and the effect is somewhat more enlightening than the cable edit I first saw (and legitimately loved) almost two decades prior. The violence edited back into the movie makes it more difficult for the viewer to find sympathy/empathy with any of the characters (which may have been a stretch to begin with)...but while the extra features are a wonderful addition to the DVD (James Woods' admission on the Leone bio piece that to this day he is asked what exactly happened in "his" last scene...and to this day he's uncertain himself...is worth the price of purchase alone. And Richard Schickel's film-length commentary track is also a joy to watch/listen to.
>
But Warner Brothers REALLY dropped the ball by deciding to split the film into two equal lengths for the purpose of placing it on 2 discs; particularly when considering that in fact Leone did make provision for an intermission within 2:45 of the film's original running time. The most obvious issue is that yes, a rather crucial scene was unceremoniously interrupted as Disc One ends and resumed at the beginning of Disc Two. Arguments will be made that this was necessary to include the full-length commentary track for both discs, but even "Pulp Fiction" with a complete running time of over two-and-a-half hours was able to complete the presentation with commentary track on the same disc; you have to believe Warner Borthers could at least have done a better job with Leone's final masterpiece. As it is, the perfect realization of the film that was by all admissions nearest and dearest to the Italian film maestro's heart still eludes him, even in this digital age. Had he lived to see it, he could not have been pleased with this treatment. Nor was I. A terrific film, beautifully and lovingly shot as always, speaking to the emotions of the viewer in a way that so many American directors simply can't pull off...but once again the editors have failed the artist. I own it, and will view it regularly out of respect to its brilliance as a film, but someone should have been sacked over this DVD presentation.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 219 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Once Upon a Time in America (Two-Disc Special Edition)
Once Upon a Time in America (Two-Disc Special Edition) by James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern, Joe Pesci, Burt Young, Robert De Niro (DVD)
CDN$ 39.95
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews