De Niro's directorial debut is very clearly indebted to Scorsese even though it's based on a somewhat autobiographical play by co-star Chazz Palminteri, which is kind of one of it's main faults. The film plays so much like a minor imitation of "Goodfellas" that it's own voice gets lost in the process. De Niro is, not surprisingly, a pretty good Scorsese imitator, but it still feels very much like an imitation. Scenes that play out like Scorsese scenes are all just a little bit inferior ... the editing isn't up to Scorsese's standard or the music used is a bit too on the nose. Lillo Brancato was cast because of his remarkable physical similarity to De Niro (he plays his son), but he's frankly not much of an actor. He has a weird, uncomfortable physical presence and his delivery is a bit wooden ... a serious detriment when he delivers the film's "Goodfellas"-inspired narration (Ray Liotta is sorely missed). De Niro and Paliminteri are both excellent, but a lot of the other supporting roles, especially the actors playing kids, are frankly pretty terrible. An interesting film with compelling themes, but just not quite good enough to invite such obvious comparisons to a genius.