Italian gangster movies have been around for many years, with classic films such as The Godfather and Goodfellas captivating audiences for decades. But more recently, A Bronx Tale has emerged as the new Italian-American gangster movie of choice. The 1993 movie was directed by Robert De Niro and featured an all-star cast of actors, including Chazz Palminteri, who wrote the screenplay based on his own 1986 play.
A Bronx Tale tells the story of Calogero Anello, an Italian boy raised in the Bronx in the 1960s. When mobster Sonny is impressed by Calogero’s honesty, his life and values become entwined with the world of organised crime. While Calogero struggles to follow in his father’s footsteps as he finds himself pulled in two opposite directions between his family and his mentor.
The movie’s nostalgia for the time period and depiction of 1960s New York culture, has since made it a cult classic. ‘It’s a movie people fall in love with and remember forever,’ says Sean Tuohy, an entertainment journalist. ‘It’s a timeless story.’
A Bronx Tale’s notoriety has been further bolstered by its bold and realistic depiction of gangsters. ‘What sets A Bronx Tale apart is its exploration of morality in the Italian-American community,’ says Maria DiAngelo, a film critic. ‘It does not focus on the glamorisation and violence often associated with the gangster genre, but instead shows the consequences of being associated with the mob.’
The gripping storyline and thought-provoking themes add to the film’s legacy, and although it was overshadowed by the more acclaimed gangster films Goodfellas and The Godfather, A Bronx Tale has found its own loyal audience. ‘It’s a diamond in the rough compared to the other movies in the genre, and it’s a movie people still talk about today,’ says Tuohy.
With its compelling characters, lighthearted humour and deep themes, A Bronx Tale has proved to be a lasting and beloved Italian-American gangster movie. ‘A Bronx Tale captures the heart of its audience and allows us to experience something that is at once familiar and yet has a certain freshness,’ says DiAngelo. ‘It’s really a remarkable film.’
The story itself draws inspiration from Chazz Palminteri’s real-life experiences growing up in the Bronx. ‘Some of the events depicted in the movie, like the rumble between the ‘wops’ and the ‘greasers,’ did actually happen,’ says Palminteri in an interview with Movie Mezzanine. ‘Other things, like the relationship between Calogero and Sonny, were inspired by people I knew growing up.’
Palminteri’s experiences helped make the movie more believable to its audience. ‘I wrote the script about a culture that I know very well, and I wanted it to be as accurate and authentic as possible,’ he says. ‘I wanted to make sure that it resonated with the people from the neighbourhood, so I put in a lot of little details that they would recognise.’
These details help to make the film as realistic as possible, further engrossing the audience in its story. ‘I think that’s why the movie still resonates today,’ says Palminteri. ‘People can connect with the characters and situations in A Bronx Tale because it feels so real and true to their experience.’
Robet De Niro
Robert De Niro’s involvement with the film is another major factor behind its success. ‘De Niro knocked it out of the park with his direction,’ says Tuohy. ‘It was his first time as a director, and he gave it a personal touch that resonated with audiences.’
The story of A Bronx Tale also inspired De Niro as he found his own parallels in the characters. ‘I can relate to the father in a lot of ways, and the struggles of Calogero in trying to figure out what path to take resonated with me too,’ he says. ‘I think people find a connection with this movie because it’s not just about gangsters; it’s about family, loyalty and doing what’s right.’
De Niro’s passion and dedication is evident in the film; he didn’t just direct it, but also took on the role of producer, actor and narrator. ‘De Niro was an amazing visionary, and he helped to make A Bronx Tale a success with his guidance and expertise,’ says Tuohy. ‘It’s one of his best achievements in the film industry.’
The cultural impact of the film makes it one of the most beloved movie of its kind. ‘A Bronx Tale was made for a specific time, place and audience, says DiAngelo. ‘But it went on to become an iconic representation of Italian-American culture that people from all backgrounds can appreciate.’
The movie’s success has spawned stage adaptations and the 2017 prequel A Bronx Tale: The Musical. This spin-off was written and directed by Palminteri and De Niro, and its success further cements A Bronx Tale’s reputation as a classic Italian-American gangster movie.
A Bronx Tale’s legacy has been reinforced by its unflinching depiction of Italian-American life and its exploration of morality in the mob. ‘It’s a movie that stands the test of time and still resonates with audiences today,’ says Tuohy. ‘It’s become an iconic representation of Italian-American culture, and it’s a story that will live on for generations.’
The success of A Bronx Tale has led to a resurgence in Italian-American gangster movies. ‘We’re seeing more and more of these types of movies now,’ says Tuohy. ‘They all owe a debt to A Bronx Tale for paving the way and showing that this genre can be successful.’
The film has also become an inspiration to aspiring filmmakers. ‘It’s one of those movies that younger generations watch and appreciate,’ says DiAngelo. ‘It’s become an icon and a reference point, and it’s great to see people still talking about and being inspired by it.’
The re-releases of A Bronx Tale, on Blu-ray, DVD and Netflix, have also helped to keep its legacy alive. ‘People have fond memories of watching it when it first came out, and the re-releases have allowed the movie to reach an even wider audience,’ says Tuohy. ‘It’s one of those rare films you can watch again and again and still find something new.’
With its timeless story, compelling characters and powerful themes, A Bronx Tale has become a much-loved classic. ‘It’s a movie that speaks to people on so many different levels,’ says De Niro. ‘It’s a representation of our culture and our way of life, and it captures the essence of being Italian-American.’
Another major factor behind A Bronx Tale’s success is its enchanting score by renowned composer Danny Elfman. ‘The music really elevates the story and helps to capture the feelings of the characters,’ says DiAngelo. ‘It’s one of those soundtracks that can stand on its own, and it’s an integral part of the movie.’
Elfman also composed a special theme song for the movie titled ‘Streets Of The Bronx.’ ‘People still remember that theme song to this day,’ says Tuohy. ‘It’s such a beautiful piece of music that captures the emotion and heart of the movie.’
The soundtrack also features songs from classic Italian-American singers. ‘It was important for De Niro to include songs from artists like Nat King Cole and Dean Martin, to further evoke the 60s feel of the movie,’ says Tuohy. ‘It’s a great way of paying homage to the culture.’
A Bronx Tale’s soundtrack has added to the film’s enduring legacy, making it one of the most memorable movie scores of all time. ‘It’s a classic soundtrack that will never go out of fashion,’ says De Niro. ‘It captures the spirit of the movie and the culture of that time.’
The location of the film was also an important factor to its success. ‘The Bronx was an integral part of the movie,’ says DeNiro. ‘The area gave us so much in terms of atmosphere, and I wanted to capture that and bring it to life on-screen.’
The movie was filmed at various locations around the Bronx, including the street corner where Palminteri grew up. ‘To be able to shoot the movie in the exact same place where some of the scenes were inspired from was an incredible experience,’ he says. ‘It’s an iconic part of our culture, and it meant a lot to be able to bring it to the big-screen.’
For De Niro, filming the movie on location made it even more special. ‘Filming a movie on location is always more interesting and exciting,’ he says. ‘It’s a way of bringing the story to life and helping the audience to connect with it on a deeper level.’
The Bronx’s vibrant atmosphere has played an important role in bringing the film to life and making it a classic. ‘The movie has become an iconic representation of the Bronx and the Italian-American culture it represents,’ says Tuohy. ‘It’s a timeless story that will continue to capture the hearts and minds of people for years to come.’