Once Upon A Time In America Vs. Goodfellas

1792 words - 7 pages

In Scorsese's GoodFellas and Leone's Once Upon a Time in America, the youth are ironically glamorized as underclass gangsters. Throughout both movies, the young teenaged boys attempt to create lives similar to those of their gangster heroes. During the course of their struggles they are forced to kill and steal and some of their own friends are killed in the process. They do all of this in order to achieve the "high class" life that they desperately would like to live. Thus, the main characters of GoodFellas and Once Upon a Time in America are very similar in certain respects including their gangster lives which are characterized by economic expansion, the drugs and liquor that they deal among society, their treatment of women, and the deaths they cause and suffer which define their eventual downfalls.Throughout both GoodFellas and Once Upon a Time in America the viewer witnesses excessive drug use. In GoodFellas Henry Hill becomes addicted to and sells a large amount of cocaine. During the film, Hill gets into the majority of his troubles due to his associations with cocaine. This display of wealth and power is a vital feature of the guerilla economics practiced within the criminal underworld, and as a young teen, Henry idolizes the success he sees around him on the streets. His childhood is a glorious time of economic expansion for the gang and the building of a vast empire. This eventually draws Henry into the drug world despite warnings from Paul Cicero, his "creator", and it eventually lands him in jail and ruins his life. In Once Upon A Time in America, the opening scene of the film is shot in an opium den where the main character, Noodles is depicted as an older man seemingly smoking his troubles away. Noodles desperately begins smoking after he looks at a newspaper article which describes the death of three bootleggers; these bootleggers, the viewer later learns, were his best friends. Thus, one can see that both characters escape to drugs in order to rid themselves of their problems when they reach hard times.One of the main differences between the two movies is a racial one. In GoodFellas, Henry Hill idolizes the lifestyle of the Lucchese crime family gangsters in his middle-class, predominantly Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. As a teen, Henry decides to leave school and work for them. Henry is taken under the wing of the local mob leader, Paul Cicero and Cicero's close associate Jimmy Conway who help to cultivate Henry's criminal career. The film charts Henry's rise within the mob through cleverly executed robberies, and the mob code which prevents him and other members of Irish descent becoming "made men," full members of the crime family. In Once Upon a Time in America, Noodles and his friends grow up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood. However, they do not strive to become members of a larger and more powerful group of "wise-guys" like themselves, contrary to Henry in GoodFellas. Instead, they intend to maintain...

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