Chazz Palminetri wrote a play called "A Bronx Tale" in the early 1990s and based it somewhat on his early life. In 1993, Robert De Niro decided to take it on as his first directing project and ended up with a great film. Although the film did not have a big box office release, it has gained a lot of recognition from DVD sales.
The story follows young Calogero Anello, who is growing up in the Bronx (although the film was actually filmed in Queens). His neighborhood is protected by a mafia boss named Sonny, who owns some local businesses and has a lot of muscle behind him. Calogero is fascinated by Sonny and his gangster pals, but his parents, Lorenzo and Rosina try to stop him from getting roped into the underworld.
Despite their attempts to protect him, Calogero witnesses a shooting involving Sonny, but tells the police that Sonny didn't do it. As a reward, Sonny gives young Calogero a job at his bar and introduces him to the gangster life, although he makes sure that Calogero is never involved with criminal activities. Lorenzo, who works a legit job as a bus driver, is offended by Sonny acting like Calogero's father and the two conflict throughout the rest of the film.
About a third of the way through the movie, the time shifts from Calogero at age nine to Calogero at age seventeen. His nickname by this time is "C" and he hangs out with his troublemaking friends, despite the protests of Sonny, who says that "C" is going to get himself in trouble hanging out with them. Calogero meets a black girl named Jane and starts dating her, despite the extreme racial tensions between the Italian and Black neighborhoods at the time.
The acting in this film is good, but I wasn't too fond of Lillo Brancato. He just seems like a moron throughout the film and acts nothing like his younger version, which was played great by Francis Capra. Palminetri and De Niro were the real standouts in this film and both had great screen chemistry. All of Sonny's gangsters were pretty good, although a bit stereotypical.
A lot of parts in this film are really funny because the film is largely about growing up. I found the scene where they were gambling and Sonny put a bunch of his less than handsome cronies in the bathroom particularly amusing. Other amusing parts include Mario talking about his test for women and the opening scenes, which show a lot of fun things happening.
I think the situation that Calogero encountered where his father was jealous of another man's influence on his son was pretty realistic. One could easily imagine feeling the same way if their child came to respect someone else more since every parent wants to have a close relationship and influence on their children. Lorenzo really cared about his son and worked hard to make sure that he stayed out of trouble and I was happy to see them reconcile at the end.
The music in this film is all period music, which fits the 1950s era setting perfectly. The film starts with a lot of doo-wop and jazz music, but progresses into the rebellious music of the 1960s as Calogero gets older. The sheer irony that happened when they played the Beatles' "Come Together" during the bar brawl was a bit amusing.
Overall, I was impressed by this film, although it could have been better with someone else playing the older version of Calogero. The movie is a great film about growing up and has some good lessons about life mixed into it. If you get the chance to watch it, you will probably enjoy it.