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The Funeral (1996)

By Ian Grey | Posted

Director Abel Ferrara (Bad Lieutenant, King of New York) will never stage a scene of subtlety when he can pelt the audience with obscenities and/or insane psychological violence instead. His characters tend to be lowlifes whose gravest mistake was reading a book on existentialism and/or nihilism and, worse, understanding it. In The Funeral, the killing of a Mob triggerman (Vincent Gallo) forces his brothers Ray (Christopher Walken) and Chez (Chris Penn) to avenge his death, while also throwing them soul-first into the grim causations of familial violence. For bonus angst appeal, there's Benicio Del Toro as a melancholic homicidal hood, Annabella Sciorra as Ray's existentially suffering wife, and a series of gut-wrenching flashbacks of childhood traumas that make Paul Schrader's Affliction look like a theme-park ride. What makes The Funeral palatable and, yes, compelling, is the cast. At one end of the over-the-top scale, there's Penn, whose thespian spleen is scarier to view than all the Nightmare on Elm Streets screened one after the other; at the other is Sciorra, who raises gooseflesh just by smoking a cigarette with ill-intent. The Funeral rewards the hardy viewer with an unforgettable corrective to the romanticized gangster clans of The Godfather and its ilk.

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