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For nine year old Calogero (Francis Capra), growing up in the Bronx isn't easy. After he witnesses a brutal mafia shooting, he forms an unlikely bond with Sonny (Chazz Palminteri), a street-wise gangster boss, much to the disapproval of his honest bus-driving father Lorenzo (Robert De Niro). As Calogero matures into a 17-year-old (Lillo Brancata) and experiences life first hand - his first crush, unspeakable violence and a cold-blooded murder - he's torn between the love of his honest father and the respect for big bad Sonny. 

Review by Shannon J. Harvey:
There's SOME talent behind this gritty film about a young man torn between family and that other family - the mob. We have Robert De Niro as the boy's no-nonsense father and as a first time director. We have Chazz Palminteri as the mob boss wanting to adopt the boy into a life of crime. Palminteri adapted his own off-Broadway hit, a play he wrote in 1989 to give himself work as an actor (playing every part), using his own childhood on the mean streets of the Bronx in the 1960s as inspiration. And we have the fourth character in this tense, simmering drama - the Bronx itself, the most tumultuous of Big Apple boroughs. It's safer now than it was then, when whites, cab drivers and even cops wouldn't dare enter its hell.

Shot on location in New York, cinematographer Reynaldo Villalobos creates such a vivid atmosphere you can almost smell the stream rising up from the subways below. Of course, De Niro can't help but make A Bronx Tale resemble the similarly set films of his mentor and pal Martin Scorsese, and although he lacks Scorsese's raw brilliance, it's obvious De Niro has a cinematic voice of his own. He's passionate about the choice men make in life - to be honest or inventive, good or bad, heroic or murderous. DeNiro also shows a little directorial flair, keeping the streets brimming with activity without sacrificing intimacy. From his soundtrack selections to the racist violence that erupts on the street, he gets all the details right.

Unfortunately for those wanting to know more, the DVD package includes just a few scant extras. Most worthwhile is a 6-minute behind-the-scenes featurette coverig the journey from inception to post-production, where De Niro - intent on casting unknowns - gets in on the screen testing. There's a brief interview with Palminteri and Brancata's great impersonation of De Niro in Taxi Driver. Additionally, there's photo galleries, cast filmographies and a grainy letterboxed trailer. 

Most of all, A Bronx Tale signifies De Niro's skill as an actor's director. He gets stunning performances from Palminteri, a guy as cool as he is deadly, and newcomers Francis Capra and Lillo Brancato as Calogero (aged 9 and 17 respectively). They hold the screen with their heavyweight counterparts, and the result is an intimate, emotional coming-of-age story that has a life of its own. You wouldn't expect a full-length commentary from De Niro, but it would have been nice. 

Published October 9, 2003

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(US) - 1993

CAST: Robert De Niro, Chazz Palminteri, Lillo Brancata, Francis Capra, Taral Hicks, Joe Pesci.

DIRECTOR: Robert De Niro

RUNNING TIME: 116 minutes

PRESENTATION: Widescreen anamorphic; Dolby Digital 5.1

SPECIAL FEATURES: Photo Gallery, Cast Filmographies, Theatrical Trailer, Behind the Scenes Featurette, From Palace Films, From the World Cinema Collection

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox

DVD RELEASE: October 8, 2003.

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