In his directorial debut, Robert DeNiro wisely took the kind of film he is known for as an actor: The gangster film. But A Bronx Tale is much more then just another gangster piece, and it succeeds mostly in its veering away from the usual fare.
DeNiro plays a father trying to make an honest living in the Bronx during the 1960's. But when his son "C" finds himself allured by the Mafia "godfather," Sonny (Chez Pallimetri), doing business out of a neighboring bar, DeNiro tries to steer his son clear of danger. Soon, however, "C" is looking up to Sonny as a second father, and DeNiro feels threatened.
Rather then focusing on the crime, it emphasizes the family drama, drawing comparisons between the crime family and blood ties. And fortunately, for the most part, A Bronx Tale avoids common clichés and hokey outcomes that dramas concerning family often hit. Instead, it creates an involving situation where no one is portrayed as pure evil.
The film is not without its problems, however. At times the film suffers from over explanation, mostly through the use of narration by an older "C." He repeatedly states the moral of the tale at the end of the film, when one doesn't need to be stated at all. It's something viewers should decide for themselves, with at most, a hint by the narrator. Also, the film could have used more scenes with just "C" and his father, as well as with Sonny, to better crystallize their relationships. While what's in the film is enough to get a good idea, it doesn't fully explore the tension and characterization. The film could benefit from an additional twenty minutes or so to fully flesh out everything.
But overall, A Bronx Tale provides a satisfying, and often times nostalgic look into family ties in 1960's New York. It's well worth the price to own.