Like the title says, Goodfellas and A Bronx Tale are opposite versions of each other, and I can imagine that some folks will reply with ‘duh’ or will say of course they are and just chuckle at the idea. The truth of it though is that the two movies share a lot of similarities that are hard to miss if one’s really looking. A Bronx Tale is what might have happened in Goodfellas had Henry Hill’s father been more attentive and a lot more caring toward his son rather than angry all the time and prone to beating his son. When you take a look at how C and his father interact you can tell that his old man cares, while in Goodfellas Mr. Hill is pretty much a non-character after a while, leaving Henry to become what he always wanted to be, a gangster. Both movies show that the main character has guidance of some sort in the world of organized crime, as C has Sonny, while Henry had Jimmy. As both young men grew up around a criminal element, they were both exposed to a great deal of struggle in their lives.
The difference is that C had the best of both worlds as he was often tucked up by Sonny and kept away from the majority of the worst things that could happen. He might have had to witness a great deal of what went on in the criminal underworld, but he wasn’t forced to participate in any of it. Even during the notorious bar fight with the bikers that rolled through the neighborhood, he was out of the fight as soon as it started. Henry, on the other hand, was wheeling and dealing as soon as he could since he was performing all sorts of tasks for those that he was eager to be a part of, and as a result, ended up performing a lot of the crimes that C was kept away from. In a sense, C was along for the ride but didn’t have to get his hands dirty.
The father figures in Goodfellas were horrible, let’s put it that way, starting with Henry and moving on to his father and then Jimmy and Paulie, who were surrogate father figures to Henry since he felt like the type of guy that needed a mentor in his life to keep him on the straight and narrow. After learning a little bit about the real Henry Hill though it’s fair to say that the guy didn’t pay attention even when he had a mentor that was interested in his welfare. Plus, it’s easy to equate C’s friends, who were a bunch of goons, to Tommy in Goodfellas, since all of them thought they were smooth and powerful characters when in reality they were goofballs that were dangerous only because there was no one there to control them. To be fair, Sonny did what he could to keep C away from his buddies, while Jimmy encouraged Tommy to stick around. It’s easy to see how in both movies however their impulsive natures gave way to a fitting ending that saw Tommy being shot for killing a made man, and C’s friends burning to death after trying to firebomb a black neighborhood.
Sonny is kind of a combination of Jimmy and Paulie since he does look out for C but he’s a hothead and is someone that doesn’t suffer fools gladly. The difference here is that people in the neighborhood love Sonny and will stick up for him, while Jimmy is more or less a crook, and people might not speak out against him, but it’s out of fear rather than love. To be honest, though, Sonny doesn’t trust anyone, as he admits, and he’d rather be feared than loved. Both movies deal with the neighborhoods they live in and how they work for or are seen to be the domain of the main characters. Henry Hill is a master of his domain to start out with in Goodfellas, but only because he knows his place and isn’t about to step out of line, since he knows what will happen. C, on the other hand, knows his place, but continually tries to push his limits and is hauled back time and time again by his father or Sonny.
A male role model does make a huge difference in real life and in the movies since it shows a sense of realism that people appreciate even if it’s not always enjoyable. It’s easy to see how the positive male role model in A Bronx Tale shaped C into a young man that finally learned to make better choices, while in Goodfellas, Henry was lost the moment he showed a desire for the life of a criminal. Drawing the parallels between these two movies is kind of fun really since there are a lot of ways to compare them. But using C and Henry is one of the easiest ways to make it work.