Martin Scorsese's third feature film, and the first Scorsese film with Robert De Niro, is a stunning early work that deserves continued attention. And not only because it is indicative of what the director would eventually produce, but because it is great in its own right. Even though the title, Mean Streets, sounds epic in scale and scope, in fact the film is an intimate character sketch of a young gangster named Charlie (Harvey Keitel) who aspires to own a restaurant in Little Italy.
Charlie embodies the values of dying traditions, yet he also tries to reinvigorate and re-imagine them in a sexist, racist, and homophobic New York environment; for example, he believes that brotherly bonds should supersede financial relationships and that one atones for one's sins on one's own terms rather than following Christ and the church. This means that Charlie stands close to the fire, both metaphorically and literally, in a film that slowly ratchets up the tension as Charlie's ideals and his reality intersect.
See this link for the New York Times review of the film in 1973.