Picks and Pans Review: Two Bits

updated 12/11/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/11/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

Al Pacino, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Jerry Barone

It's a hot summer day in South Philadelphia in 1933, and a 12-year-old boy (Barone), desperate to go to the opening of a new movie palace, is negotiating with his ailing grandfather (Pacino). He wants the quarter now, please, that the old man has promised to will him after his death. This way, he argues, Gramps will at least know how he spent it.

No dice, says the old man, an Italian immigrant who will, over the course of a single day in this small, sweet, exceedingly handsome movie, teach the boy several life lessons of far greater value than the coveted coin. Based on an autobiographical script by Joseph Stefano and directed by James Foley, Two Bits is like a bonsai tree, carefully and lovingly shaped—and diminutive.

Mastrantonio, playing the boy's widowed mother, misses with her Philly accent, but is otherwise spot-on. What the film really has going for it, though, is an uncharacteristically subdued performance by Pacino, who brings both sly humor and elegiac regret to his character's final hours. He doesn't yell once. (PG-13)

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