The Bronx, 1960s: young Italian boy Calogero (Francis Capra) sits on the steps of his apartment building admiring the ‘number one man in the neighbourhood’ Sonny (Chazz Palminteri) as his father, Lorenzo (De Niro) warns him of the dangers of the mob and of the quick buck mentality. One day, Calogero is witness to a murder as Sonny puts a bullet into another man’s head over a parking space. Calogero may only be nine years old, but if there’s one thing he has learnt growing up in the Bronx it’s that the worst thing you could ever be is a rat. From this moment on, much to the dismay of Lorenzo, Sonny takes Calogero (nicknamed C) under his wing, and both men begin a battle for the boy’s allegiance.
All those years with Scorsese clearly taught De Niro a thing or two, as A Bronx Tale sees him move from actor to director with relative ease and a veteran knowledge of the subject matter. The image of the Bronx in the 60s is remarkably well put to screen and, despite being confined to a single small stretch of street, it is inhabited by a plethora of intriguing and diverse (and often real life) characters. The language and atmosphere of the film may feel all too familiar, but with a polished script and a delightful cast, De Niro manages to make it stand out in its own right, despite a few sloppy plot turns.
The performances are absolutely outstanding as Palminteri and De Niro carry the film throughout every scene whilst rarely appearing in one together (naturally, their confrontation is one of the film’s highlights). The supporting cast, mostly made up of unknowns, are refined and realistic. De Niro look-alike Lillo Brancato takes over the role of C as we fast forward eight years, smoothly maintaining the charm of his younger self. As he continues to grapple with the head-heart split between his father and Sonny, his internal struggles are elevated as he falls in love with the forbidden fruit - a black girl (Taral Hicks) – at the risk of alienating himself from his racist best friends with whom he forms a small time gangster posse.
Revisiting A Bronx Tale on Blu-ray is an absolute pleasure; the aesthetic makeover brightens and sharpens the sights and sounds of the Bronx, and the fantastic soundtrack provides the atmospherical pulse to the film's narrative heart, as the likes of The Moody Blues, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Cleftones and James Brown lend their iconic tunes to De Niro's script. The 'Special Features' are sparse as Blu-ray extras go, simply including the trailer (which accentuates the huge improvement of the BD’s picture quality) and a rather camp 'Making Of' featurette which is really more of a promo video than an insightful look behind the scenes.
A Bronx Tale is a timeless and poignant coming-of-age gangster film that has remained criminally underrated ever since its initial release. The much deserved upgrade to Blu-ray, then, not only makes a fine addition to anyone's gangster classics collection but will also offer a high-def incentive for those who have yet to be charmed by this Bronx tale.
A Bronx Tale is released on Blu-ray on June 18th.