Directed by: SERGIO LEONE
1984, TSPDT Rank #148
Once Upon a Time in America is Sergio Leone's epic crime masterpiece, the film that he meant to define his career and which he had been hoping to make since the completion of The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. The first two films in the 'Once Upon a Time' trilogy (Once Upon a Time in the West, and Duck, You Sucker) were basically not much more than roadblocks in his path to making this film. It's a really great film, and I think it may be the defining portrait of the American gangster - outlining the emotional and societal limitations of the gangster lifestyle. Leone wonderfully balances the flashback structure of the narrative, and the film contains the same richness of character and setting, along with the masterful usage of cinematic tools, that were present in his previous films. I was completely riveted for the entire duration - it definitely doesn't feel like a four hour film. This is a film I'm highly recommending (along with all of Leone's work, especially Once Upon a Time in the West), one that I hope you will allow to sink in, while acknowledging the many layers of emotion and cinematic power contained within. I was ready to give this film a rating of 9, but as I feel it will definitely grow on me even more in subsequent viewings, I'm rounding it up to 9.5. Consider it also a tribute to the memory of Sergio Leone, one of the greatest directors ever, in my opinion.