CLASSIC SCENE: “I’m gonna pay him”

Film: MEAN STREETS.
Director: Martin Scorsese.
Screenplay: Martin Scorsese, Mardik Martin.

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Setting the scene:
CHARLIE (Harvey Keitel) is a small time wiseguy who collects protection money in New York’s Little Italy. He keeps company with other known crooks that include MICHAEL (Richard Romanus), TONY (David Proval) and the young, unreliable hothead JOHNNY BOY (Robert DeNiro). Johnny hasn’t been paying his loan debts to Michael and as Charlie feels protective of him, he takes him aside to have a serious talk about the responsibilities that he has to face up to.

[Charlie and Johnny Boy exit the bar and go into the back room to talk privately]

Johnny Boy
What are ya doin’?

Charlie
What do ya mean “what am I doin”
What are ya doin’ to me, huh?

Johnny Boy
What do ya mean?

Charlie
Michael’s been on my back all night. He’s botherin’ me.
Why didn’t ya make your payment last Tuesday?

Johnny Boy
I made my payment last Tuesday. What are you talkin’ about?

Charlie
You paid him last week?

Johnny Boy
Yeah, I paid him last week.
What did he say, I didn’t pay him?
He’s a fuckin’ liar. Where is he?

Charlie
You paid him?

Johnny Boy
Yeah, I paid him.

Charlie
Last week?

Johnny Boy
Yeah!

Charlie
Last Tuesday?

Johnny Boy
Yeah…
Charlie, you don’t know…

Charlie
He’s here.

Johnny Boy
Where?

Charlie
Out front.

Johnny Boy
He’s here?

Charlie
Yeah.

Johnny Boy
So, what do I care?

Charlie
Alright, let me go get him.
We’ll straighten this thing out, alright?

[Charlie turns to leave as Johnny pauses for a moment]

Johnny Boy
Hey, wait a minute, wait a minute, Charlie.

Charlie
What?

Johnny Boy
Well, you’re right.

Charlie
I’m right?

Johnny Boy
Yeah, was it last Tuesday?

Charlie
Yeah, that’s the Tuesday that was last week, that’s before the one about to come up.

Johnny Boy
My mistake, I’m sorry. It was last week, the week before, that I was thinking of.

Charlie
Oh, yeah. It was, huh?

Johnny Boy
That’s right.

Charlie
What’s the matter with you?
You can’t bullshit people that way. You give your word about somethin, you gotta keep it.

Johnny Boy
You know what happened to me…
I’m so depressed about other things.
I can’t worry about payments, you know what I mean?
I come home last Tuesday. I have my money in cash, you know? Blah blah, bing bing…
Comin’ home, I ran into Jimmy Sparks.
I owe Jimmy Sparks 700, like for four months.
I gotta pay the guy.
He lives in my buildin’, hangs out across the street. I gotta pay the guy, right? So what happened?
I had to give some to my mother…
I wound up with 25 at the end of the week.
And today, you ain’t gonna believe, ’cause it’s incredible. I can’t even believe it myself.

Charlie
What?

Johnny Boy
I was in a game. I was ahead like six, seven hundred dollars, right?

Charlie
You gotta be kiddin’?

Johnny Boy
Yeah, that’s the streak…
You know Joey Clams?

Charlie
Yeah!

Johnny Boy
Joey Scala, yeah.

Charlie
I know him, too, yeah.

Johnny Boy
No, Joey Scala is Joey Clams.

Charlie
Right.

Johnny Boy
Right.

Charlie
They’re the same person.

Johnny Boy
Yeah.

Charlie
Hey!

Johnny Boy
Hey!

[Johnny proceeds to tell his elaborate story]

So I was in there playin’ bankers and brokers. All of a sudden…
I’m ahead like six, seven hundred dollars. I’m really winnin’.
All of a sudden some kid walks in and the kid yells that the bulls are comin’, right?
The cops are comin’. Everybody runs away. I grab all the money. I go in. It’s an excuse, like to get away. I’d give everybody the money later, and that way I’d get out. I don’t have to get into the game and get a losin’ streak and all that. What happens is, I come out into the yard, I don’t know this buildin’. I don’t know nothin’.
I couldn’t get out. It was like a box. Big, like this.

[He makes a shape with his hands]

So I gotta go back in.
Not only do I go back in, but this kid says it’s a false alarm.
Imagine that?
I wanted to kill this fuckin’ kid. I mean, I wanna, I wanna…

[He bites his fist]

I was so crazy, I wanted to kill this kid.
Meanwhile, I gotta get back in the game.
Bing, bing, bing! I lose 400 hundred dollars.
Meanwhile, Frankie Bones is over there. Frankie Bones, I owe him thirteen hundred for like seven, eight months already.

He’s after me. I can’t even walk on Esta street without duckin’ that guy.

He’s like waitin’ for me.
Like I can’t move, you know.
He sees that I’m losin’, right?
So like he’s waitin’ for me here
He’s tappin’ me on the shoulder.
He’s saying, “Hey.”

[Johnny starts tapping Charlie’s shoulder]

Tappin’ me like this. Like a hawk.

“Hey, eh, get it up. You’re losin’. Now give me some money.”

I says “Hey Frankie, come on. You know, eh… you know, give me a break over here. Let me win some back. You know, I got debts. I mean, I’m in a big hole.”

He says, “Never mind, give me the money.”

I says, “Okay, Frankie.”

So I give him two hundred.
Meanwhile, I lost the deal.
I go outside, I’m a little depressed…
Anyway, I’ll cut this story short
’cause you don’t want to hear all this.
I know, I know, I know.
Just to make a long story short.
So anyway, I went out shoppin’.
Got a new tie, got this shirt, right?
You like the shirt? Is that nice?
This tie…

Charlie
Hey! Michael doesn’t care if you’re depressed! What is he, your priest?
What are ya comin out goin shoppin’ when you owe somebody money, Johnny? That ain’t right.

How much ya got there?

Johnny Boy
Charlie, I’m gonna pay him next week…
I’m gonna pay him!

Charlie
You’re gonna, you’re gonna, you’re gonna and ya don’t do nothin’.
How much you got there?

Johnny Boy
I got about, I don’t know, I got about 40 dollars.

[Charlie grabs his money and starts to count it]

Johnny Boy
What are ya doin’?
I got about 40 dollars there. That’s all.

[Charlie slaps Johnny on the side of the head]

Johnny Boy
What? What are doin?

Charlie
That’s for lying! I’m holdin’ on to this till next week, till ya make the next payment.

Johnny Boy
What are you talkin about? What, there’s a little more than 40?
It’s a mistake.

Charlie
Yeah, a mistake.

Johnny Boy
Hey, listen, I swear to my mother, you come with me next Tuesday…
I sign the paycheck over to you. I swear on my mother, I swear to Christ, okay?

Come on, it’s a hundred and ten dollars. You give it to Mike.
Come on, give me some money.

We got those beautiful girls out there. We’re gonna get laid now.
I met those chicks in that Cafe Bizarre. They were fuckin’ around with these two other guys. I know we’re gonna get laid.
That one, Weintraub, is very nice.
Very nice. I want to bang her like crazy.

Charlie
Here.

[Charlie gives him some money back]

Johnny Boy
Come on…

Charlie
That’s enough for you.

Johnny Boy
Come on. Give me another five. Come on.

Charlie
Which one do you want?

[Johnny snatches some money back from Charlie’s hand. Charlie stares at him]

Johnny Boy
Come on. You’re leavin’ me with nothin’.
We gotta go eat chinks?

Charlie
That’s it and you better make do with this for the week.

Johnny Boy
Alright.

Charlie
Which one do you want?

Johnny Boy
Which one do you want?…
I want the Weintraub one. She’s nice. I like that one.

Charlie
She the one on the left?

Johnny Boy
Nah, she’s the one… What? Your left or my left?

Charlie
We’re both standin’ the same way.

Johnny Boy
Well, that don’t matter.

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27 Responses to “CLASSIC SCENE: “I’m gonna pay him””

  1. That is a great scene, Mark. Early De Niro at his best.

    Like

  2. Hard to believe that’s 40 years old… Damn.

    Like

    • I know, man! That’s older than me. Still, the class is there in plain view. I just love the interaction between DeNiro and Keitel here. It was a toss-up between posting this and their scene together in Taxi Driver. I went with this as I couldn’t find a video of the other one.

      Like

  3. Sounds like a fun scene, Mark. Bobby DeNiro looks so cute in that pic… not sure he likes being called cute though, ahah.

    Like

    • Cute?… Cute?… The man’s a goddamn animal!! Lol 😉

      Yeah, like Nick says above; this is 40 years ago, Ruth. DeNiro would have been 30 years old here and this is the role that really grabbed everyones attention. I think it’s fair to say that this was DeNiro’s star making performance. He’s brilliant as usual.

      Like

  4. Great post. Love Mean Streets, one of Scorsese’s and De Niro’s best outings.

    Like

  5. Nice choice Mark! Man I love Mean Streets. This kind of stirs me up a bit. Has me itching to watch it again. Scorsese’s direction is amazing and the performances are out of this world.

    Like

    • Cheers bro! The list I have is as long as my arm for this series, to be honest but I wanted to get a DeNiro/Scorsese highlight in early. This was one of the first to spring to mind. Great movie and a fantastic scene. It’s not so much the dialogue but the acting that’s top class.

      Like

  6. Awesome, Mark. I forgot all about this film. Harvey Keitel is the best. I rewatched Pulp Fiction the other night and forgot how awesome Mr. Wolf is. Sweet!

    Like

  7. Great post dude. DeNiro’s incredible. practically a 4-min monologue that’s hilarious and complex. i love the Scorsese-DeNiro combination — powerful stuff!

    Like

    • Cheers Tom. DeNiro’s great isn’t he. I never actually thought about it as a monologue but your right, man. Keitel basically just stands there and let’s him do his thing. One of my very favourite scenes from Scorsese and DeNiro.

      Like

      • Yeah i guess it isn’t a true monologue but it has that feeling since the power of DeNiro when he gets behind a great script, that ain’t nothin’ to fuck with. he’s just such a legend, i love him. it should be really funny to see him in something like Last Vegas, though.

        Like

      • Yeah, probably not a true one but it could be seen that way. I mean the scene is most certainly all about him. The man is a legend. He’s been my favourite actor since I was about 13 years old. Absolutely outstanding. He has done some stinkers over the years but I’m getting the feeling that he’s getting back on track a little. Some of the projects he has coming up are looking quite interesting. Plus, there’s this one with Scorsese that keeps getting mentioned. It would be great to see them together again.

        Like

  8. Who is this De Niro fella? 😉

    Like

    • Yeah, not sure, man. Apparently he’s a big deal. There’s something about him being one of the greats of the screen. Can’t say I’m all that familiar with him, though. 😉

      Like

  9. Great post, such a great scene that shows De Niro at his best.

    Like

  10. Hey Mark, just wanted to tell you, I’ve nominated you for WordPress Family Award. http://vinnieh.wordpress.com/2013/08/28/wordpress-family-award/

    Like

  11. Great stuff Mark. Not seen Mean Streets for quite a while, but just watching that scene brings it back. I miss De Niro like this.

    Like

    • Cheers Chris. I haven’t seen it for a while myself but this scene has always lasted in my memory. I miss DeNiro like this too. Here’s hoping that the project Scorsese and DeNiro are talking about in the future stills goes ahead. We might just get another top class DeNiro performance.

      Like

  12. One of my favorite scenes from the film. God, De Niro was just magnetic.

    Like

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