(1993)4Keith PhippsA handsomely mounted coming-of-age story, Robert De Niro's directorial debut, an adaptation of co-star Chazz Palminteri's play, finds the veteran actor treading old ground, exploring a 1960s' New York ankle-deep in Mafia culture. But while the material might superficially seem familiar, what's remarkable about the film comes from De Niro and Palminteri's decision to cast the familiar in a new light, emphasizing borough folkways and the details of day-to-day life rather than criminal intrigues. A morality tale, but not a simple one, De Niro and Palminteri's struggle for the heart of the young protagonist avoids a simple battle between good and evil, showing instead how two decidedly different men both help shape his character. While one might ultimately be more right than the other, De Niro's direction lets the audience sort things out along with his protagonist. While De Niro seems not to have been able to coach particularly memorable performances out of some his younger actors, both he and Palminteri turn in beautifully understated performances, with De Niro proving again, as he has since Once Upon a Time in America, that however dependent his early reputation was on flashy roles, he does just as well with more interior-oriented characters. Though sluggish at times, a great feel for the period and the intricacies of neighborhood and racial relations makes this film, if not quite a knockout, deeply memorable.