By Dan Skip Allen
Robert De Niro is one of the best actors in the world. He has been in all kinds of films — most famously in Martin Scorsese's films, such as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and a few gangster films like Mean Streets, Goodfellas, and Casino. He was also in The Godfather Part II as Young Vito Corleone. Occasionally he directs a movie once in a while. Go figure he would direct a gangster film, A Bronx Tale, the story based on the life of its other star Chazz Palminteri.
Calogero "C" Anello (Lillo Brancato) is an impressionable young man who lives in the Bronx with his parents Rosina (Kathrine Narducci) and Lorenzo (Robert De Niro), who is a city bus driver. His father tries to bring him up as a stand-up guy, but he gets turned on by the local gangster in his neighborhood, Sonny (Chazz Palminteri). After he witnesses an incident in the neighborhood, he doesn't snitch out Sonny or his gang. This makes Sonny start to care about this kid and take him under his wing like he is one of his own.
There is a code that Palminteri's character lives by, but the fact that he is going around the bar and driving Sonny's car around still gets his father upset. He doesn't want him involved with these guys because they're so-called “bad guys.” Lillo Brancato plays the character "C" for most of the film, and this dichotomy between his father and Palminteri's character is the crux of this story. He's in a difficult situation. This is what happened in Palminteri's life, which makes it all the more powerful to watch.
A Bronx Tale is a lot like many other gangster pictures. It shows the lives of these wise guys and their families — similar in some ways to Goodfellas, but different in other ways. De Niro shows that the glamorous life of being a gangster isn't all it's cracked up to be. There are many dangers that go along with this lifestyle. This young man learns the hard way. He learned different things from both of these men in his life that he would use as he grew up.
With this being a period piece, there are some aspects of the film that stand out in that regard. One of them is the music. The filmmakers were able to get some classic songs from various groups, like Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, some Motown music from the Deons, and many other songs that fit the ‘60s when this story took place. Butch Barbella's score fits perfectly with these songs, and his song “The Streets of the Bronx.” The music all around was terrific in this movie.
With gangster films comes violence, and this movie has a lot of it — some racially motivated and others gangster related. The blood and violence, fires and beatings, were a way to show that there was more going on at this time than the young man realized. The racial tensions were palpable. Just riding through the wrong neighborhood could get you beat up or even killed. And this story shows what an eye for an eye is truly like. The ‘60s were the beginning of a more violent era in our country, and this film doesn't shy away from that fact.
A Bronx Tale is celebrating its 30th anniversary this month. Although it's not put in the same category as Goodfellas, The Godfather films, or Scarface in terms of its greatness, it truly is a great cautionary tale of why the gangster lifestyle isn't all it's cracked up to be. I wanted to be a gangster when I was a kid, so this reminded me a lot of my childhood watching this film, thinking what a great life this would be. The family aspects, eating great Italian food and hanging out with your friends who were like brothers. Even the father figure was a man I could idolize because he was a hard-working man who drove a bus and didn't quit his job like my father did all the time. This is a great film no matter how you look at it, and I'm glad I got to revisit it for its 30th anniversary this week.
The Snake Hole
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