Film Review: A Bronx Tale

Robert De Niro’s directorial debut A Bronx Tale is a fine piece of storytelling. Taking his cues from long-time collaborator Martin Scorsese, De Niro fashions a compelling drama.

Growing up in the Bronx in the 1960s, Calogero is in awe of the gangsters that surround his home. His father Lorenzo, an upstanding bus driver in the area, warns his son against fraternising with these gangsters. However, Calogero is happy when local mobster Sonny takes a shine to him…

Written by and starring Chazz Palminteri, A Bronx Tale is very much a coming-of-age story. Despite the inclusion of crime as a pivotal theme, the emphasis remains on Calegero and his maturity in a divisive environment. Although most viewers will not be able to relate to the world that Calogero grows up in, it is conceived well enough that the action that takes place in entirely plausible. Moreover, the central character is well-developed and an engaging protagonist.

The duality present in A Bronx Tale is not unlike other films of this ilk. Calgero’s struggle between the lure of Sonny’s lifestyle and the wishes of his father dominates the film. The way the story unfolds compels viewers. Although A Bronx Tale has a slightly slow start, it becomes compelling in good time. There is an authenticity and charm to Calgero’s character which makes viewers care about his outcome and choices.

Although the film features gangsters and crime heavily, race is also a preoccupation of A Bronx Tale. It is the facet which is perhaps most interesting. Given the period and location setting, it is easy to see why race was a contentious issue. The film deals with this theme in an interesting way; one which does not come across as over moralising.

The influence of Martin Scorsese on director De Niro is clear. With its use of voiceover and the subject of the film, there are clear parallels between A Bronx Tale and Goodfellas. That is not to say that De Niro apes the style of his long-time collaborator entirely, but merely that the influence is apparent. A Bronx Tale features an excellent use of music. Songs really give an indication of the period, whilst also underscoring the on-screen action.

Casting in A Bronx Tale is superb. Lillo Brancato is great as the teen Calogero, while De Niro plays the father role well. Chazz Palinteri is fantastic as Sonny, having played all the roles in his original stage play.

A Bronx Tale serves as a timely reminder of the skill of Robert De Niro, both in front and behind the camera. Recommended viewing.

A Bronx Tale is out on Blu-Ray for the first time on 18th June 2012.