The Funeral

on November 01, 1996 by Lea Russo
   Director Abel Ferrara may as well be the Prince of Darkness. Whether he's making the "Bad Lieutenant," "Dangerous Game" or "The Addiction," Ferrara loves to mine the cesspool of life. His latest film, "The Funeral," is no different. In 1930s New York, the Tempio family criminals prepare for the funeral of Johnny (Vincent Gallo), the youngest of three brothers. Obsessed with the cold-blooded murder of their sibling, Ray (Christopher Walken) and Chez (Chris Penn) seek vengeance.
   Shot with harsh, moody shadows, "The Funeral" explores the gangster underworld, where evil people, dastardly deeds and shocking violence serve as the foundation for criminal life. In creating this never-never land, however, Ferrara paints a black picture, an almost one-sided view of depravity. His sinister characters aren't human enough and their evil inclinations are based on quick flashes of pop psychology (the brothers behave so terribly because their father committed suicide). Only Ray's wife (Annabella Sciorra) provides a balance to the film, despising and shredding the romanticism of the mob mentality.
   "The Funeral" is certainly not a poorly made film. Walken, Sciorra and Rossellini turn in remarkable performances (though Penn's and Benicio Del Toro's are far over the top), and some of the dialogue is well written. ("Nothing will cost you more than a bullet.") Ultimately, though, Ferrara seems to be shooting badness for badness' sake. Some viewers may enjoy watching the lifestyles of the grim and depraved; others will find that sitting through "The Funeral" is like going to celluloid hell. Starring Christopher Walken, Chris Penn, Vincent Gallo, Benicio Del Toro and Isabella Rossellini. Directed by Abel Ferrara. Written by Nicholas St. John. Produced by Mary Kane. An October Films release. Drama. Rated R for strong crude sex scenes, strong violence and language. Running time: 96 min. Christopher Penn won the Coppa Volpi for best supporting performance at the Venice fest for his work here. Opens 11/1 NY/LA.
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