by Brad Nelson 5/3/14
[The following is an encore to the Robert De Niro marathon that previously aired on these pages. You can thank Glenn for that.] • De Niro (still not talking Italian, but acting very Italian) is at odds with his son who is attracted to the local mobster, Sonny LoSpecchio.
But what can De Niro offer his son? He is a mere honest bus driver just scratching out a living. But Sonny, his rival for the affections of his son, has a nice car, lots of powerful friends, expensive suits, makes a lot of money, and lives an exciting life. Maybe De Niro should try talking a little Italian because he needs to find a way to compete, to keep his son from falling in line with the neighborhood hoods.
But it’s tough. Sonny’s main hangout is at a bar just two places over from where De Niro and his son live in an upstairs apartment. The temptation is always there. And it doesn’t help that “C” (the name of De Niro’s son, Calogero, as he’s been dubbed by Sonny) has started hanging around with a teenage group of wannabe thugs who, in some ways, are an even rougher crowd than the grownup thugs that Sonny hangs around with.
Adding to the complications is a girl — a black girl, in this case. She and “C” both trade looks in school and its forbidden love at first sight. For all his desire to be a tough gangster, “C” isn’t particularly driven by hate and prejudice as some of his pals are. Even Sonny, who “C” looks up to, doesn’t have a big problem with this relationship.
And that this gangster leader doesn’t is a sign that this is a movie that you can’t predict where it is going. In fact, Sonny eventually shows there’s a lot more going on inside than his tough-guy exterior would suggest. And without revealing too much more of the plot, let’s just say that Sonny is able to teach “C” a few unexpected lessons.
But will those lessons be enough to help “C” avoid tragedy or will he get pulled down into the network of gangsterism of the young ruffians he is now palling around with? And what about his father? Try as De Niro might to instill young “C” with the politically-incorrect value of hard, honest work, there’s only so much influence a father can have in the face of the luxuries provided by ill-gotten gains. And in the middle of all this, who will survive the mini race war between the Italians and the blacks being instigated by “C”‘s young hoodlum friends? This, and other things, complicate “C”‘s budding relationship with his black girlfriend.
A Bronx Tale is a rare morality tale that ranges beyond complete treacle predictability. Suffice it to say that you will find an ending to this story that does not leave everything up in the air. But it does so — it fulfills a sense of innocence and justice — without too many things too easily falling into place. Not all is well by the end of this movie, but enough things are that you can be sure that this wasn’t directed by Martin Scorsese.
This isn’t really a De Niro movie, per se. “C” and Sonny get most of the screen time, and both young and old “C” (Francis Capra and Lilo Brancato) do a wonderful job of bringing this young man to life, filled with all the foibles of youth. And by the end of the film, you will surely see the value of a father. It is not quite true, feminazias, that a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle….and your children need them too.
But De Niro does direct this one, and does a suitably professional job. You won’t, as far as I can remember, have to contend with the idiotic modern device of camera shakes, for instance. He aims the camera and lets the actors do the work. And Chazz Palminiteri is particularly good as “Sonny,” the local gangster. (And perhaps you can then forget the truly mediocre performance of Kathrine Narducci as De Niro’s wife.)
Joe Pesci even has a small, but not insignificant, role in this film, reuniting a couple of the principles from Goodfellas. I don’t know how this De Niro movie ever eluded me, but I have now rectified that situation. • (2898 views)