Once Upon a Time in America

Once Upon a Time in America ★★½

On paper this has a lot to like. A period piece that takes forever, so you can get lost in the recreated world of old New York. A great cast playing these characters in this world and from that time, has the ingredients to be a special one.

The problem is that it doesn’t click together. In no small part because it’s two movies stuck together. One with the kids, the other as adults, and they don’t feel like they fit together. The ideas or themes presented in the first, aren’t continued in the second half. Instead, the adult version falls into the well trodden path of many other gangster movies. While the kids part was pretty interesting.

The time period is such a rich part of American history. The transition of NYC from being a collection of little villages for every kind of immigrant, to the Mad Men era of the 60s and 60s. The change in identity and culture as well, is something that could have been explored, but isn’t. 

While it touches on aging and friendship, I never felt anything. I didn’t really care about anyone. Why should I? They’re all awful people, which speaks to the inherent problem of mafia and crime movies. They’re all awful, and yet the audience has, or wants, to root for the villain. 

While the sets, costumes, score and film locations were all awesome, I was really bored by much of the rest.