After his famed spaghetti Westerns, Italian maestro Sergio Leone turned his attention to what would be his last and greatest challenge: a 220-minute gangster saga.
Beginning in 1968, as Robert De Niro's Jewish hood Noodles returns to New York after three decades away, it cuts back in time to key eras in Noodles' life: street brat, Mobster during the heady days and nights of '30s prohibition, enforced exile following his gang's violent capture.
A striking tale of loyalty, love, friendship and ambition, Once Upon A Time is a work of technical beauty and sombre emotion. De Niro smothers his inner fire with surface ice to deliver one of his best turns this side of Martin Scorsese, while James Woods, as best mate Max, radiates real menace. Only some weak supporting characters and a particularly nasty no-means-yes rape scene prevent this from getting the full five-star treatment.