Cert 15 / Region B / Running Time 121 mins
Robert De Niro’s 1993 directorial debut tells the story of Calogero Anello, the young son of morally strong bus driver Lorenzo Anello who is trying to bring his son up with a solid sense of right and wrong but living in the Bronx does’t make that an easy thing. After Calogero witnesses a shooting by local gangster Sonny (Chazz Palminteri) and does’t rat him out to the cops, young Calogero is taken under the wing of a gang leader and given an inside look at the world of the local crime scene.
As Calogero grows up the two father figures in his life struggle with each other’s mentoring of the teenager. Calogero himself begins to see the problems with his neighbourhood slim view of the world after he befriends a local black girl, Jane Williams (Taral Hicks) and as the racial tensions of the sixties escalate around Calogero, he has to find the courage to be the man he wants to be.
A Bronx Tale isn’t a story that anyone could consider different, De Niro himself admits as much in the film’s extra features but what De Niro does with the story and how he handles its twists and turns makes A Bronx Tale feel almost like a fairy tale in places. Using the music of the early sixties to generate an almost magical view of the Bronx, a trick Martin Scorsese often plays in with his depictions of his American gangsters, De Niro generates a much lighter view of the criminal underbelly of Calogero’s neighbourhood. This doesn’t undermine the violence, language or darkness of Calogero’s situation when it’s required but this is very much a tale of gangsters via the eyes of a child.
The young kid Francis Capra, who initially plays the young Calogero immidiatly makes this story work. The young actor is sharp, cocky and simply put ‘a kid’. There’s a slight air of acting from time to time but this central performance is still very strong and De Niro’s support of the child actor really establishes this story on Calogero’s shoulders. The older version of Calogero, played by a very convincing son of De Niro, Lillo Brancato Jr is also a fine mix of realistic feeling acting with a genuine sense of youth. Brancato Jr also not only looks like he could be De Niro’s son but he looks like a convincing older version of little Capra making the passage of time here utterly convincing.
The story itself is based on Chazz Palminteri‘s own one man play of the same name and despite the larger cast there’s still a sense of small and personal here, helping along with with Calogero’s voice over work as he tells his tale. De Niro’s performance is also very strong indeed. Offering almost an antidote to his usual on screen persona as he puts the gangsters of the neighbourhood under the scrutiny of the every man and with the strength of Lorenzo’s sense of right and wrong really holds a solid counter point to the lure of the gangster lifestyle.
Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 / Stereo 2.0 LPCM
The video presentation here shows the lovely warm lighting of summer in the Bronx. There’s are plenty of warm skin tones and brightly lit sets and this is a wonderfully clean HD upgrade for the film. There’s a slight haziness to exterior scenes from time to time but interior scenes are full of strong sharp edges with strong primary colours. In the darker scenes, which also hold up well, some of the red and blue lighting has that nineties feel but it looks great in 1080p. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this catalogue title but I have to say I was impressed.
As for the audio, despite the limitations of a stereo track it fits the 60s soundtrack perfectly and every track feels full and strong.
Dialogue is crisp as is the dialogue and the bigger scenes, mainly full of gangsters laying bets and what not is layered and rowdy. For a straight up drama, A Bronx Take has a solid audio track, It doesn’t show off, it doesn’t have surrounds to play with but when some of those songs kick off, it sounds fantastic.
Lastly the Extras. Unfortunately, there’s not a great deal. A trailer and a 7 minute making of, which is the original EPK. De Niro shared quite a bit about the project in the short runtime but it would have been nice to get a little bit more with this release.
A Bronx Tale is a gangster movie that has all the elements you’d expect but carries some real heart with it. This is as much a story about doing the right thing as it is about the world of mobs and bosses. De Niro’s directorial debut gets a fresh make over for Blu-ray and it’s a great upgrade, it’s just a shame the extras are so thin.
A Bronx Tale is available now.