A Good Thing for a Bad Man

A Bronx Tale is a tale of two fathers. It was a personal story that Robert De Niro dedicated to his own father who past away the same year. A Bronx Tale originated from a one-man show based on the life of Italian American actor Chazz Palminteri. De Niro was so captivated by the performance that he immediately decided it would be his directorial debut. A Bronx Tale is a gangster story, but De Niro doesn’t play the gangster this time around. Palminteri got his big break as the feared mob boss Sonny, and De Niro goes against type as working class bus driver Lorenzo. In the middle is Lorenzo’s son Calogero based on Palminteri’s own childhood growing up in The Bronx during the 1960’s. The doo-wap soundtrack is a nice reflection of the time.

Calogero finds himself drawn to the local mob despite warnings from his father and conflicted mother played by Kathrine Narducci in her first acting role. We learn all about Calogero’s life and everything he knows about members in the mob. Even Joe Pesci shows up when we’d least expect it. Similar to Palminteri, everything changes when Calogero witnesses a murder perpetrated by Sonny. When he refuses to rat him out, Sonny takes him under his wing and gives him the nickname “C.” Think Goodfellas if more focus was on growing up. Francis Capra is perfect as a young naive Calogero, but it’s the older Lillo Brancato who really feels like a young De Niro. It’s a shame he was a victim of wasted talent.

A Bronx Tale is far more complex than simple good guy v.s. bad guy. Sonny seems like a ruthless gangster, but he does care enough about Calogero to keep him away from the violent aspect of his life. Lorenzo means well, but even he can have wrong viewpoints. A Bronx Tale does a good job of portraying racial tension between African Americans and Italian Americans. Most of it is tough to watch, but there is hope when Calogero falls for his classy black classmate Jane. Although young actress Taral Hicks is inexperienced, they have a cute relationship complicated by Calogero’s racist idiot wannabe gangster friends. A Bronx Tale deals with heavy themes, but it balances things out with a sneaky sense of humor. I’m so glad one of my closest co-workers suggested I watch it. A Bronx Tale is one of the most underappreciated gangster films I’ve ever seen.


Calogero rides the bus with his father

6 thoughts on “A Good Thing for a Bad Man

  1. What a great film A Bronx Tale is. It was De Niro’s only time as director and boy did he do a good job his sole time at bat. I liked that De Niro’s and Palminteri’s characters were shown with shades of grey instead of pure black and white portrayals, they’re shown as genuinely decent men who sometimes make the wrong choices on things. That the Sonny character had more good in him than bad was a great change of pace for a mobster. The finale is bitter sweet, but feels right. They aired A Bronx Tale on practically every major network at least 1000 times a year when I was growing up, now I hardly see it anywhere sadly.

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  2. My introduction to this story was through the Broadway musical, which Palminteri adapted and occasionally performed in as Sonny (so, apparently, he can sing, too!) and which is incredibly moving in its own right. I’ve wanted to see the film ever since. Your review inspired me to look for it again (to see if it’s available on any streaming services I use), and I’m thrilled to say I found it! 😀 I look forward to watching it soon. Thanks for reigniting my interest. 🙂

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      1. I watched it today, and I enjoyed it very much! 😀 It was as excellent as I knew it would be, and I had the chance to compare it back-to-back with the Broadway version, too.

        The movie is grittier, which I expected, but it also creates that world and immerses you in it far better than the musical ever could. However, the songs and music of the stage show capture the movie’s essence well, and there are even a couple small additions to the plot that I wish were also in the film.

        I love personal stories, and this one may be one of my all-time favorites. ❤ The casts of both really touch me. Everyone is perfect in their roles. To comment on those you highlighted from the film, Joe Pesci made such an impression in so little time. “Was that fight really over a parking space?” “No.” That LOOK on FACE! 😮 And the kids playing C were amazing both in appearance (how believably they resembled each other and Robert De Niro) and performance. You inspired me to quickly research Lilo Brancato. I didn’t know about him previously. Now I get your “wasted talent” reference. (It didn’t click with me when I originally read your post.) Apparently, he’s out of jail now and has returned to acting, so maybe he’ll make the most of this second chance.

        The cast of the musical is fantastic as well. Incidentally, the guy who played Sonny was Nick Cordero (Chazz just did some performances on a limited basis). He had a terrible experience with Covid and passed away very early in the pandemic at quite a young age. Sonny was his biggest role. Also, Wikipedia says Robert De Niro co-directed the musical, too. 😀 If you can stand Broadway shows at all (I generally love them), I highly recommend it.

        I’m so glad I’ve finally seen the movie, and as I’m sure you can tell, I’ve certainly had fun spending the day in the Bronx. 😉 (Both the film and the musical are on YouTube, by the way.) Thanks again for reigniting my interest. 🙂

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