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Laramie Movie Scope:
A Bronx Tale

A boy is caught between a father and a mobster mentor

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by Patrick Ivers, Film Critic
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(1993) In the Fordham section of the Bronx in 1960, as doo-wop groups sang on the street corners and the church bell at Mount Carmel rang, gangster Sonny LoSpecchio (Chazz Palminteri) and centerfielder Mickey Mantle (the Yankees were playing the Pirates in the World Series) were the idols of nine-year-old Calogero Anello (Francis Capra), whose dad Lorenzo (Robert De Niro) drove a city bus. Told to stay away from Chez Bippy, the bar where Sonny and his hoodlums hung out, and keep to the stoop in front of the flat, Calogero, wearing a Yankees baseball cap, witnesses in broad daylight Sonny shoot dead a guy using a baseball bat to bash in the windshield of another guy's car.

After a pair of detectives request that the boy, apparently the lone witness willing to cooperate, come down with his father to pick out the person who pulled the trigger, Calogero says to his father: "We fooled 'em I didn't rat I did a good thing, right?" Lorenzo answers: ""You did a good thing for a bad man."

Later, feeling confused ("A man had died, and I had lied"), Calogero makes confession to the priest, who asks: "Do you know what the fifth is?" Calogero answers: "I refuse to answer on the grounds that it might incriminate " No, the Fifth Commandment, corrects the priest. "Thou shalt not kill," recalls the boy. Urging the kid to tell the truth to the authorities, the priest says: "Don't be afraid, my son. No one is more powerful than God." Calogero begs to differ: "I don't know about that, father. Your guy may be bigger than my guy up there, but my guy is bigger than your guy down here." The priest concurs: "Ya got a point."

The men in Chez Bippy - bar owner Tony Toupee, Sonny's main man Jimmy Whispers, ex-con Bobby Bars, boxer Danny K.O., the jinxing degenerate gambler Eddie Mush, JoJo the whale, and ugly Frankie Coffeecake - are sources of both humor and violence.

The worst thing in the world is wasted talent ("Be somebody who works for a living"), Lorenzo - a standup guy who declines Sonny's offer of $150 a week to pick up numbers for the racketeers - frequently reminds his son, in director Robert De Niro and screenwriter Chazz Palminteri's coming-of-age story within a crime drama (based on Palminteri's own play), while Sonny (pointing out that Mickey Mantle will never help pay the rent) emphasizes the importance of getting both school and street education along with the advantage of "availability" in the neighborhood.

When he finds $600 Calogero has stashed away from his earnings in the bar (tips and playing craps in the bar), Lorenzo returns the money to Sonny with a warning: "This is my son. Not yours." Calgero's father tries to convince the boy to stay away from Sonny, who employs fear to keep his people loyal. Both the mobster and Lorenzo say by way of explanation to Calogero: "When you get older, you'll understand."

Eight years later, known by the nickname "C" Sonny gave him, Calogero (Lillo Brancato Jr) and his four pals - who openly demonstrate a racist attitude toward blacks passing through their neighborhood - have a club, Deuces Wild, from which they collect money from the jukebox and cigarette machine.

Cautioning C to steer clear of his chums (stupid "jerk-offs"), who will only lead him into trouble, Sonny - while admitting that he trusts no one and prefers that people fear rather than love him, though not hate him - advises the teen to use his head for making his own choices and loans his crimson convertible to pick up a date.

Accepting Sonny's generosity, Calogero also learns from the mob boss that one can determine if a female will be one of the three great women in his life with the door test: "Alright, listen to me. You pull up right where she lives, right? Before you get outta the car, you lock both doors. Then, get outta the car, you walk over to her. You bring her over to the car. Dig out the key, put it in the lock and open the door for her. Then you let her get in. Then you close the door. Then you walk around the back of the car and look through the rear window. If she doesn't reach over and lift up that button so that you can get in: dump her."

The girl, Jane Williams (Taral Hicks), a recent arrival from Brooklyn, is tall, beautiful, classy, and black.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2013 Patrick Ivers. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Patrick Ivers can be reached via e-mail at nora's email address at juno. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)