October 9, 2023

A BRONX TALE: Like Scorsese Without Caffeine

1993 / 121 min
Available at www.moviezyng.com
Review by Stinky the Destroyer😽

The first directorial effort by Robert De Niro certainly bears a Scorsese influence…Goodfellas, in particular. Like that classic, A Bronx Tale features great attention to period detail, both visually and through the use of pop standards to mark the passing of time. 

Storywise, it shares a similar episodic structure. Adapted from co-star Chazz Palminteri’s one-man play, which in-turn was based on his own childhood experiences, A Bronx Tale chronicles the impressionable years of Calogero (aka ‘C’), an Italian-American kid enamored with local crime boss “Sonny” (Palminteri). Conversely, his hard-working father, Lorenzo (De Niro), is a dedicated bus driver trying to steer his son clear of the shady doings in the neighborhood.

At the age of nine, C witnesses Sonny shooting a man in the street, yet doesn’t identify him to the police, a decision even Lorenzo approves of because the neighborhood hates a rat (and of course, fears Sonny). Afterwards, Sonny reaches out to C and takes him under his wing, eventually becoming something of a second father figure. As C grows older, he becomes increasingly estranged from Lorenzo, who feels helpless to intervene over his son’s life choices.

Yet Sonny doesn't appear to be grooming C (Lillo Brancato) as a gangster. In fact, he’s very protective, repeatedly discouraging the boy from getting involved in anything violent or the criminal activities of his peers, such as the escalating racial tensions between the Italians and African-Americans. C’s budding romance with black classmate Jane (Taral Hicks) further complicates matters, leaving him conflicted.

"Don't look at me boss...I haven't seen his shirt."
For the most part, the entirety of A Bronx Tale plays like the opening 30 minutes of Goodfellas, albeit more benign in its depiction of low-level mob life. Presented from C’s point-of-view, the story is engaging enough to maintain interest. However, C is also the film’s weakest link. He’s never as unrepentant as Henry Hill, but not nearly as compelling either. Aside from a few charming moments he shares with Jane, we’re given little reason to care all that much about him, not helped by Brancato’s perfunctory performance.  
But maybe that’s because he simply pales in comparison to his co-stars. De Niro and Palmiteri are excellent as their perspective characters, who are much more charismatic. The movie really shines whenever one of them is on-screen (or both of them, such as a great scene when Lorenzo confronts Sonny).

In a way, A Bronx Tale is a Scorsese film minus the caffeinated jolt that man brings to his own gangster epics. That’s not meant as criticism, either. De Niro does an admirable job behind the camera of this coming-of-age story, even if the movie itself is strikingly similar in look and tone to the work of his frequent collaborator. Believe it or not, the film is only now being released on Blu-ray and 4K, the latter of which features excellent picture and sound.


NEW INTERVIEWS - With Robert De Niro & Chazz Palminteri.



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