Movies & Videos
Navigation Bar
Navigation Bar

    Related Item
‘A Bronx Tale’

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
October 01, 1993


Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro;
Chazz Palminteri;
Joe Pesci;
Lillio Brancato;
Francis Capra;
Taral Hicks
Under 17 restricted

Marketplace Online Shopping

Compare prices
for this movie

Find local video stores
WP yellowpages
More movie shopping

Save money with NextCard Visa

In this postmodern age -- as we have heard ad nauseum -- everyone is supposed to get 15 minutes of fame. It seems there's a corollary to this: Everyone also has the right to direct their own Italian-American movie. Robert De Niro, who has made out like a bandit on that quarter-hour thing, is the latest to lay claim to the second right.

"A Bronx Tale," based on the Chazz Palminteri play, is about the coming of age of Calogero (played by Francis Capra, then by Lillo Brancata), a kid who grows up in an Italian neighborhood in the Bronx. After witnessing a murder at the age of 9, and smartly keeping quiet about the assailant's identity, he finds himself all but adopted by the killer, a benevolent hood called Sonny (Palminteri).

Meanwhile, Calogero's bus-driver father Lorenzo (De Niro) is trying to keep the kid (later to be dubbed "C" by Sonny) on the low-budget straight and narrow. C grows up between dueling mentors, bouncing in and out of trouble.

The movie is pretty much what you'd expect: a string of familiar Italian-American movie moments. It seems to have been created from a software package ("To add Italian nicknames -- such as Tommy the Toupee -- to your characters, click once"). The story is riddled with absurd coincidences and improbabilities. It doesn't have an original bone in its body. And no one's going to leave this film thinking De Niro should stay behind the camera. But none of these problems stops the movie from being enjoyable. If "Bronx Tale" feels too familiar, it's at least the familiarity of good Italian movies.

Like "GoodFellas" -- the movie it imitates most blatantly -- "Bronx Tale" starts off with amusing voice-over narration, introducing C's neighborhood of people with funny names. There were, C recalls, people like Jo-Jo the Whale ("Legend has it his shadow once killed a dog") and Jimmy Whispers ("everything was a secret to him"), and the aforementioned Tommy the Toupee. C also remembers those nights filled with "the sounds of Italian men romancing their women." Cut to a young woman walking angrily along the sidewalk, while her boyfriend follows her slowly in his car, holding the passenger door open and yelling, "Get in the {expletive} car!"

The light, ironic tone continues, supplied frequently by narrator C, and carried further by Francis Capra as the young, wiseacre-ish C, De Niro's efficient, straight-arrow Pops and Palminteri's dead-on rendition of a cheap, self-legendizing, sorta-wise gangster.

Unfortunately, the Important Stuff, which has to do with tolerating the races, not wasting your talent, making the right choices, being true to yourself and other secondhand wisdom, fills the movie and squirts out the sides like an overstuffed cannoli. C falls in love with a black girl, prompting an operatic divide between the strings of his heart and his bigoted pals who swing baseball bats at blacks who drive through the neighborhood. Why blacks drive through these mean streets with such regularity -- other than to suit the movie's contrived purposes -- is anybody's guess.

As the girlfriend Jane, Taral Hicks is an endearing and engaging personality. But the love between her and C (now Brancata) is so sandwiched between "West Side Story" banalities, it never tastes more than pleasant. But on the other hand, after a recent diet of "The Real McCoy," "Undercover Blues," "The Program" and "The Good Son," a taste this pleasant goes down like great home cooking.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

Back to the top

Navigation Bar
Navigation Bar