Sunday, September 10, 2017

The plot must justify the length

I'm a big fan of gangster movies. (I've seen all the Godfather movies multiple times.) At least two of my novels, The Eavesdropper and Blood Flats, have organized criminal elements.

I was expecting to like Once Upon a Time in America (1984). Directed by Sergio Leone, the movie explores the lives of a group of (fictional) Jewish New York gangsters during the first half of the twentieth century. 

The movie also stars James Woods and Robert De Niro. I assumed that the combination of such talent would result in a great movie.

I assumed incorrectly. Once Upon a Time in America is a four-hour film that drags on and on, jumping across various storylines and subplots. 

The characters are not very likable, even if their despicable actions might be partially justified by their surroundings and circumstances. There are no real heroes—in the classic sense—in this movie.

I miss many aspects of life in the 1980s. I’m sad to say, however, that the 1980s was not a great era in American film. Once Upon a Time in America only adds to the decade’s dismal cinematic legacy.

If a director is going to make a four-hour movie, then the plot had better be tight, compelling, and fully deserving of four hours of the viewer’s time. Once Upon a Time in America simply doesn't rise to that standard.

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