I have a big problem with this too … it goes way beyond what is necessary to establish that ‘Noodles’, who we’re supposed to empathise with as a cheeky street smart kid, is really just a moronic sociopathic thug. The rape sequence, intended as a shock and turn around in events, that the main character can do this to the love of his life, becomes a voyeuristic up the skirt peep show, which from the director’s point of view seems to validate 'Noodle’s actions.
In the scenes with the gang as young boys, we’re supposed to find their scams charming and amusing (emphasised by the light comedic music) … this happens again as adults when they exchange the I.D. tags in the maternity ward, in order to blackmail the chief of police into meeting their demands … more musical direction for the audience, to let us know they’re just lovable rogues. Except they’re not lovable or even remotely likeable - That’s just one of the many problems for me.
As kids they’re apprentice crooks, as adults they’re a ruthless group of dimwits, lead by the paranoid Max … and the stoic and suspicious Noodles.
Simply put … there are no characters here that I give a damn about … the film may look great in places, but that doesn’t compensate for exhaustingly long pauses and meaningful looks. It’s a weak story pumped up to look like an epic.
I could go on further about the trite Morricone music … the cringe inducing phrase from the Beatles’ ‘Yesterday’ and the completely unconvincing 1960s wardrobe of the extras leaving Fat Moe’s bar …
In the past I could have forgiven nearly all of my above complaints/criticisms and just enjoyed the Leone-isms for what they are … but the clincher, deal breaker and complete balloon buster is the ridiculous suicide of Max - death by crushing and tearing to bits in the back of garbage truck - All very dramatic, except for the fact that we can see, plain as day the actor running along side the vehicle - How the hell did this escape the director and editor … did they hope no one would notice!? - it just looks clumsy and half assed … and boy does it take a long time to happen.
To me it’s a failed epic … at least he had already made his masterpiece before this final effort.