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A Bronx Tale is a American film set in The Bronxmarker during the turbulent era of the 1960s. It was the directorial debut of Robert De Niro, and follows a young man as his path in life is guided by two father figures, played by De Niro and Chazz Palminteri. It also includes a brief appearance by Joe Pesci. It was written by Palminteri, based partially upon his childhood.


In 1960, Lorenzo Anello's (Robert De Niro) young son Calogero (Francis Capra) witnesses a murder committed by the local Mafia boss, Sonny (Chazz Palminteri) in defense of an assaulted friend. When Calogero chooses to keep quiet when questioned by New York City Police detectives, Sonny takes a liking to him and tells him that he prefers to start calling him "C". Sonny's men offer Lorenzo a job to make more money, but Lorenzo, preferring a law-abiding life, politely declines. Sonny, however, befriends Calogero and introduces him to his crew. Calogero earns tips amounting to 600 dollars working in the mafia bar and throwing dice, and is admonished harshly by Lorenzo when he discovers it. Lorenzo speaks severely to Sonny, returns the money, and warns him to keep away from Calogero.

Eight years later, Calogero (now played by Lillo Brancato, Jr.) has grown into a young man and has secretly been visiting Sonny regularly without Lorenzo knowing. Calogero is also part of a gang of racist Italian boys at his high school, although he isn't racist and because they are his childhood friends: in fact, many times, Sonny tries to persuade Calogero to keep away from the boys and focus more on his schoolwork. Some time later, Calogero meets an African-American girl, Jane, (Taral Hicks) and is smitten with her, and the two arrange a date, despite the high level of tension and dislike between Italians and Blacks. He asks advice from both Lorenzo and Sonny, the latter whom agrees to lend Calogero his car and tells him of a specific detail to look out for which determines whether or not the date is a worthwhile prospect. Around the same time, Calogero's friends beat up a black cyclist passing through their neighbourhood, and Calogero is powerless to stop them but does his best to defend the young man, who turns out to be Jane's brother, Willie. Willie, however, mistakes Calogero for one of the assailants and accuses him of beating him when Calogero and Jane meet for their date. In the ensuing argument, Calogero loses his temper at Willie's lack of gratitude and calls him a "fucking nigger" by accident, although he instantly regrets it. Heartbroken, Jane leaves Calogero. At home, Calogero is confronted by Lorenzo, who saw him driving Sonny's car from the window. An argument ensues, and Calogero storms out. Suddenly, he is confronted by a furious Sonny and his crew, who found a bomb in Sonny's car and suspected Calogero of planning to assassinate him. Calogero swears his innocence and is allowed to leave. Lorenzo, who saw the mobsters roughing Calogero, emerges to defend his son, but is assaulted by Sonny's men and sent back home.

The blacks egg the Italian boys' usual spot in retaliation for the previous beating, and in revenge, Calogero's friends make a plan to strike back, using molotov cocktails. They take Calogero with them, but along the journey, Sonny intervenes and orders Calogero out of the car. Sonny takes Calogero back to the bar, where Jane was looking for him. Calogero catches up with Jane, who tells him that Willie recognized the boy who beat him up and now knows that it wasn't Calogero. Jane and Calogero make amends, but Calogero suddenly remembers his friends' plans to assault Jane's neighbourhood, where Willie will most likely be, and the two rush to stop them.

However, upon arriving, Calogero and Jane see the boys' car destroyed and the boys themselves burned to death: during the assault, a black shopkeeper had thrown one of the boys' cocktails back into their car through the window, igniting the remaining bottles and causing a crash and an explosion. Realizing that Sonny saved his life, Calogero rushes back to the bar to thank him (and also due to being shunned by the angry blacks), but the bar is crowded, and an unnamed assassin (the son of the man that Sonny killed in the beginning of the film and who also planted the bomb in Sonny's car) shoots Sonny in the back of the head before Calogero can warn him. The assassin's fate is left ambiguous.

A funeral is held for Sonny, where countless people come to pay their respects. Once they are all gone, a lone man named Carmine (Joe Pesci) visits, claiming that Sonny once saved his life as well. Calogero does not appear to know Carmine, but remembers him when he sees a scar on his forehead: the day Sonny had committed that murder outside Calogero's home when Calogero was little, it had been in defense of Carmine, who was being beaten by the assailant with a baseball bat. Carmine tells Calogero that he will be taking care of the neighborhood for the time being and promises him help should he ever need anything, and leaves just as Lorenzo arrives, surprisingly, to pay his respects to Sonny: he had never hated Sonny, but merely resented him for making Calogero grow up quickly. Calogero makes peace with his father, and the two walk home.

Settings and filming locations

A Bronx Tale was filmed in three New York City neighborhoods. Though set entirely in the Bronx, only one of these locations was actually in that borough. The Fordham neighborhood in which Calogero lives was actually filmed in Astoriamarker, Queensmarker; the black neighborhood said to be on and around Webster Avenue was actually filmed at East 15th Street and Gravesend Neck Road in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklynmarker; finally, the scene set on the Bronx's City Islandmarker was actually filmed in that location.



Palminteri adapted the screenplay from his one-man show of the same name. The show had successful runs in Los Angelesmarker and Off-Broadway. Palminteri would not sell the rights to his story unless he could write the screenplay and was guaranteed the role of Sonny. At one point he was offered one million dollars, but refused because his conditions were not met. Later, De Niro saw the show and approached Palminteri. He said he knew about Palminteri refusing to sell the rights. For the rights he told Palminteri he would act in the movie and meet Palminteri's conditions if he could direct. De Niro said he was good to his word with only a handshake from Palminteri.

Palminteri based several characters' names on himself: his real name is Calogero Lorenzo Palminteri. A scene was written where the Don (to be played by Frank Vincent) would visit Sonny and meet Calogero; the idea was eventually scrapped, but Vincent still got paid.

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