A few years back I watched a film about a young boy growing up in the Bronx. I couldn't for the life of me recall any detail but I knew that it was a De Niro feature.
I'm currently going through a bit of a De Niro phase having recently watched him in Once Upon a Time in America, Raging Bull and the awesome Taxi Driver. Sunday night's are made for relaxing with a good film so I punched all the key words that I could think of in to Google.
"Bronx De Niro Boy Black Girlfriend"
Of course the film in question is A Bronx Tale.
I settled down with a few glasses of good red and some pizza to watch the film.
I'm currently in the process of sketching out a synopsis for a story that centres around a man's downward spiral in to hell. (I'm going to write it but don't have any plans for it beyond satisfying my own creative urges.)
A once perfect home life that becomes challenged in a number of ways until he ultimately loses it all and quite literally finds himself in a terrible place with no hope of escape.
I'm a little preoccupied therefore with studying any depiction of a man's fortunes in film.
I had intended to watch a Stanley Kubrick film. There's a few that deal with this kind of theme, notably The Shining, but in the end the lure of the Italian American style won me over.
A Bronx Tale is a powerful story. A story of a boy who "does a good thing for a bad man".
De Niro raises his boy to understand that working hard is the only way and to be a good man he should be prepared to go to work to provide for his family. The good things in life come from earning an honest buck. Though he doesn't have much what he has is bought and paid for with honest hard work and a steady income and he provides the best that he can for his wife and only son.
It's a good and honest portrayal from De Niro and the role suits him well.
So when the boy witnesses the local mobster gun down a man in the street and subsequently turns a blind eye to the incident in an impromptu police line-up, the mobster seeks to take the young boy under his wing.
Respect and relative wealth ($600 for a 9 year old boy in 1960!) come with it and the tension between father and son begins.
De Niro's character, pride dented considerably, returns the money to the mobster and instructs him to stay away from his son. Naturally this infuriates our mobster.
What I like about this paradigm is the conflict that was almost entirely with De Niro's character.
He sees his son become capable of earning money the dirty way. What's more the boy is potentially earning more money than he is with his position as a bus driver.
His wife is banging on in his ear about how they could use the kid's new money but De Niro rejects it flattly. He won't have it. His boy will be brought up properly. A tough ask when you're trying to raise a kid within the grit and glamour of New York's underworld.
What we see quite clearly is the attraction to crime as the 9 year old boy's friends all try and emulate the mobsters. As the story zooms forward 8 years the now teenage friends all dress sharp and behave like junior crime lords. Before long they've identified the local black community as their enemy and become hell bent on destroying them.
The blossoming romance between De Niro's boy and a black teenager from his school is somewhat incidental but also key to the final act.
I enjoyed the way the story was told. It was tight in terms of its use of locations and honest. Very much a play on the virtues of a humble working class lifestyle in a God fearing home. Something that a lot of people can relate to. The dark world of the Mafia shines like a beacon of gold but is clearly Satan. Should you fall for its lure you'll ultimately pay the price one way or another.
A Bronx Tale has a number of keywords about it but the one that I'd probably pick as most relevant is Temptation.
It's such a powerful sense of temptation that runs through the film and right at the end we see that this temptation can result in paying the ultimate price.
A fantastic story well told.
Interestingly De Niro directed this movie and the guy that plays the chief mobster, Chazz Palminteri, wrote it - both story and screenplay. Respect.