A Bronx Tale: An Italian Fable

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In a statement that surprises absolutely nobody, Dan Sileo is Italian…very Italian. And along with Joe, my morning can become full of Italian slang and terminology that makes me forget I live in San Diego. Now I am part Italian with my Grandmother’s family coming from Sicily but I never really experienced that true Italian family.

When I watch “A Bronx Tale,” the image of an Italian family, especially in New York, becomes quite clear. The way people talk and act towards each other checks every mark in the stereotypical Italian guide. And ironically, I thought the film would be more of a comedy (like “The Sandlot”). Real swing and a miss on that one.

Now the movie does start off with more of an innocent feel with the young Calogero imitating the cool Sonny and continually fighting off his parents’ attempt to keep him away from that life. And while you do see someone get shot, that’s not uncommon in movies I saw when I was young and also the film still had that harmless tone for the rest of the hour. No harm, no foul.

But much like “Goodfellas,” the atmosphere completely changes in the second half. After becoming very close with Sonny and experiencing the “fun” parts of his life, an older C (his nickname) begins to understand all the problems his Dad warned him about. Sure it’s fun and games at times and Sonny has a real fondness for Calogero but when things get intense, the protagonist seems very out of place. And plenty of characters meet an unfortunate end.

I have to admit that while I did like Chazz Palminteri as Sonny, my favorite character had to be Lorenzo, Calogero’s father. Robert De Niro’s character is the only real ethical person in the film as he represents the workingman. Sure he has his flaws and his real anger towards Sonny isn’t revealed till the end but you feel real sympathy for everything he does. Lorenzo is trying to shield his son from what ends up happening at the end of the film.

One aspect I was not expecting but thought was key is the issue of racism. After being touched upon near the beginning, we see it rise to prominence as more African-Americans move closer to the neighborhood and in fact C tries to date a black girl. This “issue” becomes very symbolic of big cities in the 1960s as integration was very tense and many areas provided violent imagery of the situation. And to think I thought this would be a comedy!

But by the end of the film, you finally understand the main message of “A Bronx Tale,” wasted talent. So many of C’s young friends completely waste any potential they have with the life they choose and Sonny is constantly making sure Calogero does not follow that path. And while Sonny has plenty of flaws himself, his true intentions as well as impact become clear in the closing scenes. Much like Lorenzo, Sonny wants to make sure C doesn’t waste his talent, the saddest thing in life.

Now I do have a few small gripes. For one I felt that the older Calogero was a little too awkward at points and while its understandable that he is supposed to be different from the rest, lying to Jane was just plain dumb. And also after he called her brother the n-word, she forgave him a little too quickly. But with those small grievances aside, I can see why this film is held in high regard to Dan. The depiction of Italian-Americans in the Bronx during such a tense time in the 1960s really leaves an impact on the viewer. I mean I’m actually thinking of trying Sonny’s door test on a girl now. Should I?

+ Danny Reiter is the producer of the Dan Sileo Show

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