Thursday, June 28, 2012

"A Bronx Tale" with Robert DeNiro and Chazz Palminteri (1993)

This is one of my favorite Robert DeNiro films. It was his first effort at directing a film, and is a poignant look at growing up in New York City during the 1960’s. Each neighborhood had its own fiefdom, usually composed of someone who was “connected” to the “mob” in some way. That person functioned as a sort of “peacekeeper” in his neighborhood, settling disputes and also collecting a fee from any illegal activities that might be going on in the area.  For the most part this system worked to everyone’s advantage, but every now and again, paths were crossed, and drama ensued. That is the story told in this remarkable film written originally as a play by Chazz Palminteri, who also wrote the screenplay for this movie, in which he plays the lead character of Sonny, the neighborhood “boss”.

Sonny runs things from the Chez Bippi, a bar located on the corner of 187th Street in the Fordham Road section of the Bronx. This bar is the local hangout for the mob, a place where they can gather and feel comfortable. It is a separate world within a world, where working class people live and hold real jobs.  When Calogero , the 9 year old son of a local bus driver named Lorenzo Anello, played by Robert DeNiro, witnesses a gangland related shooting outside the bar; these two worlds collide in a very unexpected way.
After the shooting, Lorenzo quickly hauls his kid off the street to avoid being questioned by the police. When the child is forced to look over the suspects, he does the “right thing” by not telling the truth; or, as his father puts it, “You did a good thing for a bad man.” This confuses his son, who has grown to idolize Sonny, which in turn forms a division between father and son. When Sonny offers Lorenzo a job running numbers as a reward, Lorenzo turns him down, eschewing the easy money for his honest job.
As Calogero grows older he begins to work at the bar, without his father’s knowledge. Lorenzo is disapproving of the men who hang out at the bar, and the world they represent. He asserts that the real hero is the guy who gets up in the morning and goes to work to make an honest living. But this lesson is lost on his son, who sees the big, easy money being earned by the men at the bar. He soon becomes a part of their world, running errands, serving drinks, even rolling the dice for Sonny in a crap game.  When Lorenzo finds out that his son has been working at the bar, he confronts Sonny, reminding him that the boy is his son, and that as such, Sonny is way out of line with his interference in the raising of his family. This sets off an emotional conflict between the two men which never fully resolves itself.
The film is a multi-layered story of the years between 1960 and 1969, when things were changing so quickly it wasn’t always easy to keep pace with what was right, and what was wrong. It is also the story of a father and son in the grips of those changes. And it is also the story of a city rent by these changes.
As Calogero gets older he finds himself attracted to an African-American girl who goes to his school. With racial tensions between the Italians and Blacks at an all-time high, this is just another log on the fire for “C”, the name which Sonny has bestowed upon him, much to the chagrin of his father.
While  Calogero becomes more involved with his girlfriend, Jane, racial tensions arise in the neighborhood, and C’s friends become involved in the violence.  He is torn between his loyalty to his friends, and the conflicting advice  he receives from his father, and Sonny, on just about everything.
When tensions explode on a fateful night, it is Sonny who saves the boy from death. And when Sonny is later murdered in retaliation for another killing, it is Lorenzo who comes to his son’s aid, helping him to realize that all things are not as cut and dried and as they might seem at first. Life is complicated. And though both men had conflicting outlooks on life, they both wanted what each perceived to be the best for Calogero. It is only after Sonny’s death that Loenzo realizes the good within the dead man, who had tried to keep his son from following in his footsteps.
When Lorenzo shows up at Sonny’s funeral to pay his respects; more to his son’s friendship than to Sonny himself; Calogero realizes that Sonny was wrong when he said that “nobody cared.”
This is a flawlessly written, and directed, film by two of the best actors of the last 40 years. As usual, Robert De Niro has peppered the film with some of the greatest music of the 1960’s, ranging from Doo-Wop music to the sounds of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, Rhythm and Blues, and even some Eric Clapton thrown in. The whole movie is seamlessly drawn, and lingers on with the viewer long after the last credits have rolled. If you have never seen this film before, then you are missing one of the best.


  1. wad ya expect , anyway .
    y gada make da money ta pay da bills.
    benny `s bar on 187 st and third av .
    long gone .

    1. I bet this is from Glen Slater- king of dialogue. I'd know you anywhere....

  2. hoodlem elements.
    dem guidos took care of business .
    but ultimatly the blacks and p-r dirt people over populated the area .
    the power of the dirty womb pooping out dozens of paracites year after year over took the area and now its a rotten piece of junk.
    patsy and the crew cant fight the overwelming numbers of zombies out on the streets.

  3. Hoodlum Elements;

    I leave your comment as a testament to the "brotherhood of man." With you around it has no future.

    Robert at RT