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Playing ying to Al Pacino's yang, De Niro's powerful portrayal of low key, disciplined, and sociopathic master thief Neil McCauley, may be his last great performance (thus far).

While the idea of De Niro playing an emotionally repressed hard man may not be much of a stretch, it is the moments where McCauley breaks out of his hardened shell, while falling in love with the equally lonesome Eady (Amy Brenneman) that are the most telling. Here we see a soft counter to De Niro's patented tough guy demeanour, and it works in creating a sympathetic figure that - despite the fact that he is a dangerous criminal - draws the viewer's sympathy.



Although he received top billing, De Niro is never the less memorable in his supporting turn as thief Jimmy Conway. Playing a wise guy in the truest sense of the word, De Niro is both slick in his charm, yet equally brutal if you get between him and his money. But more than that, he is the ultimate complimentary actor, providing the perfect balance between Ray Liott's protagonist Henry Hill, and Joe Pesci's scene stealing Tommy De Vito.



With long jet black hair, thick beard, and pointed fingernails twirling a nifty cane, De Niro cuts an imposing figure as the mysterious Louis Cyphre. The fact that he managed to scare the living daylight's out of audiences with just 20 min of screen time, says something about De Niro's ability to make an impact, no matter how big his role.


Mean Streets marked De Niro's first film with future long time collaborator Martin Scorsese. De Niro plays Johnny Boy, a punk hood who builds up outstanding debts to various loan sharks, with a smile on his face and the middle finger salute to anyone who questions his actions. His most animated turn, De Niro's best moments are the films heavily improvised scenes shared with fellow New York thespian Harvey Keitel. It would prove to be his breakthrough role.


In Martin Scorsese's remake of 1962 classic Cape Fear, De Niro is without mercy as ex-con Max Cady, who is out for revenge against his former lawyer (Nick Nolte). With a ripped physique, large tattoo's (applied with vegetable dye), a thick southern accent, and a keen intelligence, De Niro has pieced together a terrifying creation sure to haunt viewers after the credits have rolled.


Travis Bickle is De Niro's signature role. A mentally unstable, socially awkward, and exceedingly violent Vietnam veteran, "God's lonely man" spends his days and nights driving a cab in the grim streets of New York City, until he takes it upon himself to rid the scum who have plague the Big Apple.

In his method madness, De Niro prepared for his role by actually driving a taxi for a month. But what really stands out in De Niro's performance are the little things: his patented look back/stare, his sizing up of a Secret Service officer, or (my favourite) the karate stance he makes when confronted by Albert Brooks' campaign organiser.


Taking on the daunting task of reprising a role made famous by Marlon Brando, De Niro never the less rises to, and indeed exceeds the challenge of portraying young Vito Corleone, in his rise to power to become the Godfather. De Niro effectively conveys the wisdom, clarity, and ruthlessness which embodied the titular mafia figure, and with all of his dialogue in Sicilian, he is only one of five actors to win an Oscar for a non-English speaking role.


With Rupert Pupkin, De Niro found a character that would make Travis Bickle look sane by comparison. A tragically deluded figure, Pupkin gave De Niro the chance to show off his comedic chops, while also pushing his natural ability to play awkward to the limit. Cue several scenes that would make you squirm in your seat, as De Niro sways from reality to fantasy; black comedy to hard hitting satire, always hitting a nerve, and never afraid to put himself out on a limb.



De Niro is magnificent as the quiet, introverted and quirky Michael. Once again, it is the small things that lead to a greater whole. Whether it is a shift of his head or a look in his eyes, De Niro brings much sorrow, anguish and stern authority to a very complex character, who finds it hard to articulate his feelings. Yet underneath his impenetrable exterior lies a rage that when unleashed, is equally frightening and spectacular to watch.



While De Niro's dedication to his roles are second to none, the extraordinary lengths in which he undertook to portray middle weight boxing champion Jake La Motta, are simply mind blowing.

First, De Niro got himself into trim fighting shape, and even entered three amateur boxing matches, going 2-1.Then, in order to play Jake in his bloated, overweight faze, De Niro ate his way through Italy and packed on a whopping 27 kilos (60 pounds)!

Yet, for all of its spectacular method hoo-hah, this is not a performance dominated by the physical, but by the emotional: here, De Niro portrays a repugnant, brutal, ignorant, egocentric, paranoid, pitiful and domineering thug of a man. Yet, for all of his vile characteristics, La Motta is not remembered as a bad man, but as the ultimate sad man.
Somehow, De Niro draws the viewers' disgust and sympathy in equal measure. His actions are often shocking and lewd, but who can not help but laugh during his constant verbal duels with his brother, (played by Joe Pesci)?

It is a performance with layers upon layers upon layers. When De Niro snarls, the viewer bays for his blood; when he sobs, the viewer wants to console him. He is man made primal, with raw emotions laid out for all to see, played by De Niro with us much frankness and authenticity as he could muster.

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