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Films of Sergio Leone => Once Upon A Time In America => Topic started by: Blueberry on January 29, 2004, 06:04:59 AM



Title: Max' Elaborate Cunning Job (MECJ)
Post by: Blueberry on January 29, 2004, 06:04:59 AM
I was just wondering the other day about something. And I'm truly sorry if this has been suggested before - maybe it's the whole obvious point that has missed me, and in that case I apologize - I just seem to remember that people talk about Max´ crazy obsession with the federal bank as if it is for real. I don't think so. He's merely preparing his cunning trap:

Is it possible that the whole idea about robbing the federal bank is a scheme from the beginning - with the sole purpose of getting rid of Noodles (and the others)? That Max never intended to do it for real?

The first time he mentions it, is after the knowledge that
a) Prohibition is over.
b) Noodles is dead weight in the forecoming "armchair" and "businessmobster" period.
c) Max needs to move on.

After all, it's Max's chick that suggests to Noodles that he should turn them in for running booze. Maybe Max set her up to that, knowing that Noodles would take the bait. That's why he punches him before the job - making sure that Noodles didn't come. He obviously had a deal with the police, making sure that the rest were killed, and that an irrecognizable body was at the scene. And that's evidently why there's no money in the locker. Max' preparation has been long and careful.

Hence: The whole bank-idea was NOT an obsession of Max', it was just something that sounded crazy enough for Noodles to believe that the only way out would be to turn them in - and crazy enough for him to believe that Max' chick would really suggest this. Noodles had to be convinced that the job was excactly that: crazy enough to get them killed.

And he took the bait. Maybe Max' hysterical reactions to Noodles' innocent remarks about him being crazy was part of the cunning job as well. He had to SEEM crazy.

Well, I have to see it again...  :)


Title: Re:Max' Elaborate Cunning Job (MECJ)
Post by: guybrush on January 29, 2004, 07:19:33 AM
Is it possible that the whole idea about robbing the federal bank is a scheme from the beginning - with the sole purpose of getting rid of Noodles (and the others)? That Max never intended to do it for real?

The first time he mentions it, is after the knowledge that
a) Prohibition is over.
b) Noodles is dead weight in the forecoming "armchair" and "businessmobster" period.
c) Max needs to move on.
maybe I'm naive, but honestly don't think this was Max's intention from the beginning. Max didn't seem very caring about the others, but his affection for Noodles seemed genuine to me at least until he began to suspect that Noodles was about to trick them all and save their lives

Quote
After all, it's Max's chick that suggests to Noodles that he should turn them in for running booze. Maybe Max set her up to that, knowing that Noodles would take the bait. That's why he punches him before the job - making sure that Noodles didn't come.
I don't think Carol was ever aware of the plot made up by Max. Had she been informed, she would have known that Max somehow survived the event and would have informed Noodles accordingly when he paid a visit to her in the sixties

Quote
He obviously had a deal with the police, making sure that the rest were killed, and that an irrecognizable body was at the scene. And that's evidently why there's no money in the locker. Max' preparation has been long and careful.
I can subscribe to that  ;)

Quote
Hence: The whole bank-idea was NOT an obsession of Max', it was just something that sounded crazy enough for Noodles to believe that the only way out would be to turn them in - and crazy enough for him to believe that Max' chick would really suggest this. Noodles had to be convinced that the job was excactly that: crazy enough to get them killed.

And he took the bait. Maybe Max' hysterical reactions to Noodles' innocent remarks about him being crazy was part of the cunning job as well. He had to SEEM crazy.
IMO Max decided to trick the robbery, cheat the gang and ruin Noodles's life as soon as he understood that Noodles would not join them in and would try to save his friends' lives by informing the police.

To cut it short: your hypothesis might as well work  ;)
it's just that I love my 'image' of the movie too much to have it 'spoiled' by different interpretations of the characters: Max seemed crazy because he was crazy, and he could not accept the idea of Noodles being too critical about his plans. IMO, of course...  :)  


Title: Re:Max' Elaborate Cunning Job (MECJ)
Post by: General Sibley on January 29, 2004, 04:35:20 PM
Wow, that's a really clever way of looking at it.  Very plausible, Max is smart enough AND nasty enough to pull off such an elaborate con.  Someone mentioned the foreshadowing with the salt bags in the water as kids - Max probably filed away how strongly Noodles reacted when he thought he was drowning, and knew how much Noodles cared for him.   Like a chess player, he could anticipate every move Noodles would make once he set the wheels in motion for the phony bank heist.  


Title: Re:Max' Elaborate Cunning Job (MECJ)
Post by: shorty larsen on February 02, 2004, 12:14:57 PM
I have to agree with you, Blueberry.

I never saw it in that way, but you are right.

Max only only wants power and money. He wants to achieve the american dream. And that includes murder, to doublecross your best friend, to steel him his girl.

Max is someone nasty, with no remords at all. When he call Noodles, 30 years later, to be shot by him, it is not because he has remords, it is because he is already dead and prefers to be killed by a friend.

I think it was Leone's intention to destroy the american dream, just like Kafka's "America" or Werner Herzog's "Stroszek", and with that in mind, I believe Blueberry is right. Max attitude is what it takes to achieve the american dream to Leone.


Title: Re:Max' Elaborate Cunning Job (MECJ)
Post by: General Sibley on February 02, 2004, 12:55:17 PM
This movie is like peeling an onion.  

I rewatched a couple scenes this weekend.  Noodles and Carol are sitting in the car casing the bank, and Carol is the one who plants the seed with Noodles to call the cops so Max gets arrested.  Noodles is still in a daze after the rape and can't really think, and she gets aggravated with him when he doesn't catch on to it right away.  It's kind of obvious that she and Max have this whole thing figured out already, and they need Noodles to play his part.  None of this is Noodle's idea - he's a puppet on a string.

After Noodles makes the phone call, Max comes into the room and knows he did it.   Prior to that, Max had an end of prohibition toast with Cockeye and Patsy and he gives Cockeye a look like "it's been nice knowin' ya".   So those two are history.   But it doesn't seem like he's able to kill Noodles.  He tells Noodles he doesn't look well, he's too drunk, he shouldn't go, etc.  Finally Noodles calls Max crazy again and he knocks him out.  Max looks more disgusted than pissed off when he's hitting him, kind of like "you f*cking loser".

James Woods is really excellent in these scenes.  Just a subtle look here or a glance there.  But yeah, definitely - the Fed heist has been an elaborate con all along.

Carol was in on it too.  Max takes care of her and sets her up as the adminstrator of the Bailey Foundation.  Noodles sees Elizabeth McGovern in the picture, Carol flinches.  So Max wasn't totally evil - he didn't let Noodles walk into the cop ambush that killed Cockeye and Patsy.  And even though Carol knew about his past, he let her live and gave her a very well paying job.


Title: Re:Max' Elaborate Cunning Job (MECJ)
Post by: Cusser on February 02, 2004, 06:25:51 PM
I tend to agree with the General.  


Title: Re:Max' Elaborate Cunning Job (MECJ)
Post by: Blueberry on February 03, 2004, 02:46:58 AM
Great to see that this line of thinking makes sense to others as well.

I think that, among others, C. Frayling takes "the bank obsession idea" for granted - he compares it to the "Bank of Mesa Verde (isn't it Mesa Verde? I don't remember now) obsession" in Duck you Sucker.

I have seen OUATIA 3 times since the DVD release and I started to realize this the 2nd time I think: Ain't NO WAY Max was gonna rob that bank. He's megalomanic, but not that way - he's much more indirect and subtle.

The theme of "getting rid of each other" already starts in the car after the diamond heist.

Anyway - I don't mean to mess with your interpretation Guybrush - the film can be seen in many ways. General: good remarks about the looks on Woods' face  - you're right, he's excellent!



Title: Re:Max' Elaborate Cunning Job (MECJ)
Post by: General Sibley on February 03, 2004, 08:13:52 AM
Tuesday Weld is really good too.  First couple viewings you get distracted by the whole kinky bimbo thing.  My first impression of her was that this is silly, why would Max have this pyschobitch as a girlfriend.  But she's as clever and devious as Max is, if not more so - after looking at these scenes again, I think you can make a case that SHE is the brains behind this whole scheme.   Max didn't really start doing his Alpha Dog thing with the throne and such until after he met her.  Quite the Lady Macbeth.


Title: Re:Max' Elaborate Cunning Job (MECJ)
Post by: shorty larsen on February 03, 2004, 01:28:54 PM
I agree. Women are able to manipulate all of us. And I'm not joking.

It wouldn't surprise me at all if Carol is behind everything.


Title: Re:Max' Elaborate Cunning Job (MECJ)
Post by: General Sibley on February 04, 2004, 11:26:18 AM
Hey, I never let a woman tell me what to do (oops, gotta go, my wife just walked in).

Now that I think about it, Carol was the one who came up with the diamond heist scheme.   Isn't she the one who gave the Burt Young character all the details about who has the combination to the safe and everything?  That's why she had them rape her, so they wouldn't suspect that she was the one on the inside who set the job up.

The gang was pretty much small potatoes until she came along, she goaded Max to higher ambitions.


Title: Re:Max' Elaborate Cunning Job (MECJ)
Post by: Blueberry on February 05, 2004, 06:17:56 AM
I think we should be careful not to overblow the significance of Carol. In my eyes she's still being controlled by Max, I don't see her as the brain. Max has got his own clear ambitions, like the "stink of the streets"-scene in the hospital shows us.

The throne thing is his idea, no doubt about that - just look at the way he sits in it, mastering the room. And look at the distaste in Noodles' eyes as he stirs his cup of coffee.

Carol's just a tool in Max' hands but a very valuable one, that is. He just plays her, and she wants to be played. But she didn't have Noodles rape her - that was Noodles' own responsibility - he's got his own demons, and he can't control them.

What really makes the gang move up is the Union/Jimmy Clean Hands/strike affair, right? Pardon General, but what makes you think that's Carol's doing?


Title: Re:Max' Elaborate Cunning Job (MECJ)
Post by: General Sibley on February 05, 2004, 09:01:39 AM
Blueberry, you are correct - one must be more precise when speaking of matters of such great import.

She's not the power behind the throne, Max definitely calls the shots.  But she is a very important catalyst.  Shes the one who informed the Mafia about the opportunity for a big diamond heist, and the Mafia then contacted the out-of-town Jewish gang, which led to their first contract killing, which led to an intro to the Union, and so on.  Without Carol tossing the first pebble in the pond, the gang might never have gotten to the big time.

I also think that she's the one who planted the seed with Max to kill off his partners and pocket all of the gang's money.  Her actions are very instrumental in moving Max up the corporate ladder so to speak.  This is Leone's take on "behind every good man stands a woman".

Compare her to Noodles.  After he gets out of prison, he's pretty much a doped up mope who's along for the ride.  He doesn't really make any big decisions on what the gang will be doing, but he still thinks he's co-leader with Max because they were equals as kids.  You can't really blame Max for wanting to get rid of him.

What a great movie, so much depth to it.  You can't trust the spoken dialogue, because everyone is lying and conning everyone else.    The  truth is conveyed through the body language and the camera movements and the editing.


Title: Hoods at beginning
Post by: Cusser on May 17, 2004, 09:07:17 AM
OK, I watched this again this weekend.  Max obviously plans the disappearance well in advance.  Max wants to separate from Noodles, but doesn't want him dead.  Carol is on on this too.  Max absolutely knows that Noodles had used the phone, he picks up the receiver and reverses it on the holder, very obvious.  But this brings up another question: who exactly were the hoods at the beginning who killed Eve and were trying to find Noodles (the hoods included Mario Brega)?  They weren't hired by Max, nothing to gain there.  


Title: Re:Max' Elaborate Cunning Job (MECJ)
Post by: Blueberry on May 18, 2004, 06:49:50 AM
Brega and the boys could be hired by collaborate mobsters or dark syndicate connections who now saw the opportunity to completely wipe out the existence of the jewish gang. I think  they simply represent some of the connections that Max are introducing the gang to in his quest to rise further. And on top of that, everybody in the underworld now thinks Noodles is a rat.. and nobody wants a rat..
But that's just off the top of my head, I need to see it again soon.. ;D


Title: Re:Max' Elaborate Cunning Job (MECJ)
Post by: Nobody on May 18, 2004, 07:05:52 AM
This is all extremely interesting to read. Will have to see it again very soon. Every times I've watched this film, I've discovered something new. It looks like that's going to happen the next time as well.


Title: Re:Hoods at beginning
Post by: General Sibley on May 18, 2004, 11:51:13 AM
who exactly were the hoods at the beginning who killed Eve and were trying to find Noodles (the hoods included Mario Brega)?  They weren't hired by Max, nothing to gain there.  

My guess is that Max hired them as contract killers, - how else would they know that they should torture Fat Mo to find out where the key to the locker was hidden?  Even though Max knew where the key was, they had to rough up Moe to make it look like outsiders were doing this job - not Max.

What I always found confusing is why would they let Fat Moe live?  Max had Popeye and Patsy killed, and he was certainly a lot closer to them than Fat Moe.  They killed Eve, and I'm pretty sure if Noodles was in that room with her they would have killed him too.  They probably would've hunted him down in Buffalo if they knew he was there too.


Title: Re:Max' Elaborate Cunning Job (MECJ)
Post by: Cusser on May 18, 2004, 11:57:54 AM
No, Max always knew where they key was (and he also knew there was no money left in there).  So it wasn't Max who was responsible for those hoods.  My guess is they were the other guys they had double-crossed, who figured that since Noodles was apparently the only one left alive, that he'd be the source to the gangs money, and to wipe out Noodles as well.  The plan was to only let Fat Moe live until they'd found Noodles, that's why the one hood was made to stay with Moe.


Title: Re:Max' Elaborate Cunning Job (MECJ)
Post by: General Sibley on May 18, 2004, 12:26:07 PM
Well, it's certainly a point open to debate.

However, I think it's apparent that either:

a)  Max arranged the killings, or
b)  Joe Pesci arranged the killings, and Max was forced to cooperate.

But if it's (b), why would they leave Max alive after they got the money from the locker?  They wouldn't have much use for him now that all his muscle was gone, would they?  Is there an option (c)?


Title: Re:Max' Elaborate Cunning Job (MECJ)
Post by: Nobody on May 23, 2004, 03:22:31 PM
Watched the film again today, and I would go for b. Joe Pesci arranged the killings. After all, Senator Bailey delt with mafia, so Pesci was always behind him. I also noticed 3 guys sitting at a table next Pesci and company in the first scene he's in, and they looked a lot like the 3 hoods in the beginning.


Title: Re:Max' Elaborate Cunning Job (MECJ)
Post by: guy on May 25, 2004, 06:29:08 PM
this is what i believe  option c) to be. i think that these hoods are also jewish. They are from the branch of the syndicate known as murder inc, a jewish hit squad, hired to do outta town jobs in most cases.  joe pesci character most probably  got them involved  and asked with their agreement for noodles to disappear.  obviously they thought noodles had turned  into a grass. we all know his was how a grass would be dealt with, no matter the previous friendships. i believe fat moe was allowed to live because he was a fringe member and they 'd know he'd never try anything in revenge, he had no backup now. thats my outlook.


Title: Re:Max' Elaborate Cunning Job (MECJ)
Post by: General Sibley on May 28, 2004, 07:53:33 AM
Well, that's all plausible - but if Joe Pesci authorized the hit, why would they leave Max alive once they got the gang's money?   There were plenty of other people out there who could have run a trucking company.


Title: Re:Max' Elaborate Cunning Job (MECJ)
Post by: Blueberry on September 03, 2004, 02:22:25 AM
Max was the perfect man for the syndicate: ambitions, businessman, cynical, connections - why would they wipe him out when he was so willing to play their game? And to even sacrifice his old gang?

And why is it that you suggest that anyone else but Max gets a hold of the suitcase money?
I dont think "they" force Max to do anything. He does things on his own, including selecting new business partners.

I am working on another and totally different frame of understanding as I write this, but I will have to see the film again before I post anything...


Title: Re:Max' Elaborate Cunning Job (MECJ)
Post by: Two Kinds of ... on November 06, 2004, 02:13:32 PM
Wow, that's a really clever way of looking at it.  Very plausible, Max is smart enough AND nasty enough to pull off such an elaborate con.  Someone mentioned the foreshadowing with the salt bags in the water as kids - Max probably filed away how strongly Noodles reacted when he thought he was drowning, and knew how much Noodles cared for him.   Like a chess player, he could anticipate every move Noodles would make once he set the wheels in motion for the phony bank heist.  
It wasn't that he filed away his reaction, that was their to show us that Max would play dead.  It was foreshadowing.


Title: Re:Max' Elaborate Cunning Job (MECJ)
Post by: Two Kinds of ... on November 06, 2004, 02:21:05 PM
Watched the film again today, and I would go for b. Joe Pesci arranged the killings. After all, Senator Bailey delt with mafia, so Pesci was always behind him. I also noticed 3 guys sitting at a table next Pesci and company in the first scene he's in, and they looked a lot like the 3 hoods in the beginning.
At the hospital after they've visited Jimmy and the idea that Noodle might have to go comes up, Pesci sees Noodles and Max get off of separated elevators and gets an idea.   Later, Max tells Noodles that the cops and the mob were in on it, Pesci was behind him, but Pesci wanted Noodles dead, so Max made sure Noodles didn't come.