This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Rashid N.’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Last month, I binged the Dollars trilogy in one day and loved all of them, especially the masterpiece The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. I was excited to watch more from Leone's small yet masterful filmography but for some reason, I never got around to it. Next up on the list was Once Upon a Time in The West but his final film kept taking up my attention and I couldn't wait any longer so I turned on Amazon Prime Video and watched all 3 hours and 49 minutes of Once Upon a Time in America.
This is a film which made me feel so many emotions and somehow managed to keep me invested for almost the entire runtime. I commend Leone for all the effort he put into making this grand masterpiece. One second, I was having fun along with Noodles and Max and just enjoying myself and then the next second, I was devastated and disturbed by the rape and brutality. Now, I won't say that it being disturbing and hard to watch is a flaw; I don't think that just because a film is hard to get through and quite distressing then it's automatically bad. I think the brutality here adds to the film and makes it better with the hard-hitting emotions I end up feeling.
I'd like to discuss the two rape scenes. The first rape scene happens during a bank robbery where Noodles rapes a woman there and as DialJforJarmusch pointed out, a scene later on is problematic because that woman is shown to have enjoyed the rape and the group even make her guess who was the rapist by showing her their penises. I and many others have a problem with this. The second rape scene happens later on involving Noodles and Deborah and that scene is brutal, heartbreaking, difficult to sit through, and very depressing. I think it's a great scene, even if it's extremely unsettling and hard to watch.
The first rape scene may have possibly affected my rating but there was also something else which may have affected it and that is what happens after Deborah's rape. The film kind of became a little boring for me and I lost a little bit of interest. I still payed attention and focused but it just didn't feel as good as the the first half and instead it felt a bit dull and unfocused. I felt like there were pointless scenes which could've been cut. Nonetheless, it was still a great half, just not as prominent or as good as the first half.
I may have been nitpicky here and I'm sorry about that. This film is a masterpiece and maybe on a rewatch, it'll get that 5/5 rating. I debated with myself for hours whether this was a 4.5 or a 5 but I finally settled on 4.5 because I think a 5 should be absolutely flawless (or I should love it enough for that rating). I now have three Leones left and I will be saving Once Upon a Time in The West for my final Leone film.