Robert De Niro's honorable directorial debut takes on Scorsese material--Chazz Palminteri adapting 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 going 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. Hyde Park, Norridge, Old Orchard, Webster Place, Ford City, Lincoln Village, North Riverside, Water Tower.