Robert De Niro's honorable directorial debut (1993) takes on Scorsese material—Chazz Palminteri adapted his own play about growing up Italian in the Bronx during the 60s—without copying Scorsese's style; the results may be soft in spots, but it's encouraging to see De Niro go his own way. The narrator hero, seen at the ages of 9 and 17 (when he's played by Lillo Brancato), oscillates between two father figures, a local gang boss (Palminteri) and his law-abiding, bus-driving father (De Niro). Once local racism comes into the picture, the moral distinctions between these parental guides become a lot more ambiguous and complex than one might initially suppose. Despite some sentimentality and occasional directorial missteps, this is a respectable piece of work—evocative, very funny in spots, and obviously keenly felt. With Francis Capra, Taral Hicks, and Katherine Narducci.
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