Picks and Pans Review: A Bronx Tale

updated 10/04/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/04/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Robert De Niro, Chazz Palminteri, Lillo Brancato

This routine gangster-in-training drama—think GoodFellas Jr.—is the first film to be directed by De Niro, who seems to share with his sometime director and mentor, Martin Scorsese, the gross misassumption that the lives of all young Italian-American males in New York City are intrinsically profound and interesting.

De Niro based this film on a fictionalized memoir by the Bronx-born Palminteri, who is a much better actor than he is a writer. His pompous script for the movie—about a boy torn between his bus driver father and a slick hoodlum—-is full of such platitudinous aphorisms as "Every choice you make can change your life forever." And the second-string gangsters all have such names as Frankie Coffeecake (so named for his acned complexion) and Tony Toupee, as if these parasitic punks are all just playful rascals. But Palminteri makes a convincing actor as the strutting, unctuous godfather with whom the boy ingratiates himself by refusing to tell police about a murder he has seen the unscrupulous hoodlum commit.

De Niro, in earnest Stanley & Iris normal-guy mode, plays the father with humanizing skill. His imagination and talent as an actor are not reflected in his directing, however. From camera angles to shallow perspective, this movie is only too reminiscent of Mean Streets, Billy Bathgate and any number of other gangsterphile productions. Seen one godfather, you've seen them all. (R)

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