Review by Chris Walker of ClockWalkerOrange
After watching a production of Chazz Paliminteri’s autobiographical one-man show, Robert De Niro approached Paliminteri about purchasing the film rights and directing a film based on his play. Paliminteri agreed provided he could write the script and play Sonny. This would be Robert De Niro’s first venture behind the camera and he would prove that he is just as adept behind the camera as he is in front.
A Bronx Tale tells the coming of age story of Calogero (Francis Capra and Lilio Brancato) under the guidance of two very different men: His father Lorenzo (Robert De Niro) who consistently tries to imbue his son with working-class values. The other being powerful local mob boss Sonny (Chazz Paliminteri) who teaches him how to handle himself on the street and teaches him some realities of life. These two men come to odds as Lorenzo fears Sonny is corrupting his son with the easy, glamorous life of crime. Meanwhile Calogero is torn between his two idols and their teachings.
Robert De Niro is at the top of his game in A Bronx Tale, surprisingly he is in a crime film but not playing a gangster. De Niro perfectly conveys the caring father who would do anything for his son, but also skilfully showing a father who is struggling to capture and maintain his son’s attention. Additionally De Niro once again show cases one of his trademarks, being able to be a firm authoritarian but on the other hand being able to convey a strong sense of humour and mould these two elements successfully together. His directing skills equal his performing skills as he unfolds the tale with patience and confidence, taking the time to show us life in 1960s Bronx. De Niro is greatly supported but a solid script from Paliminteri as it is clear he had no difficulty transferring his story from theatre to screen.
As the film begins and we see the Bronx from the sky we are immediately immersed into this world and story through effective use of voice-over from the protagonist. The claustrophobic almost cramped set emphasises the idea that the Bronx is a small world on in to itself, a tiny world slow to change compared to the rest of the world. A mention must also be given to the film’s use of music and more importantly the timing of the music. Whenever music is played it is incredibly appropriate for the scene, enhancing the poignancy of each scene; whether it is slow, contemplative, and almost romantic music or just cool jazz for bar scenes.
In a Robert De Niro film you would expect him nine times out of ten to act anyone off the screen. However Chazz Paliminteri more than holds his own, generating a lot of sympathy for Sonny as in some way he sees Calogero as his own redemption. Paliminteri does this so well you tend to forget that he is a brutal criminal. Paliminteri shows a caring, emotional side to his character as he tries and turns Calogero away from violence and crime; teaching him that the best tool for the job is not necessarily the hammer.
A Bronx Tale is often said to be very alike to Goodfellas because it is a coming of age gangster movie. This is understandable, however unlike Goodfellas a mobster protégée is not being trained, but rather a young boy into a man who receives two very different forms of education from two contrasting men, in order to give him the best chance to escape the hardships and prejudices of the Bronx.