Joe Bruno on the Mob – The Funeral – Movie Review

You’d think a movie directed by Abel Ferrara, and with a stellar cast including, Christopher Walken, Vincent Gallo, Chris Penn, Anabella Sciorra, Gretchen Mol, Benicio Del Toro and Isabella Rossellini, would be a can’t-miss flick. Yet, “The Funeral,” a somber mob movie set in the Depression era 1930’s, falls flat on it’s face, with and ending so surreal and depressing, it almost makes watching the movie a total waste of time.

The movie begins with Gallo, who plays Johnny, the youngest of three mobster brothers, being carried in a coffin into the family house for viewing. The casket is opened and viewed by the oldest brother Ray (Christopher Walken) who says, “He died so young. Only 22 years old and look what they did to him.”

Now enters the crazy-eyed, middle brother Chez (Chris Penn), who intermittently laughs and cries at the sight of his younger brother in the coffin, and you get the idea that maybe Chez is not playing with a full deck; or maybe without any cards at all. Then we get the flashbacks, which try to explain how young Johnny got into the coffin in the first place.

The three Italian/American brothers are in cahoots with fellow mobster Gaspare (Benecio Del Toro), in some sort of a union busting operation. At a meeting in Chez’ bar, Gaspare lays down the law that things are to be done his way, or people may get hurt. Ray and Chez, reluctantly agree to Gaspare’s demands, but young Johnny laughs in Gaspare’s face, making Gaspare not too happy himself. When Gaspare exits the scene, Chez screams at Johnny, “What’s wrong with you?” Ray chimes in with, “You know what? You’re looking for trouble.”

Johnny was looking for more trouble than his two brother’s realized, and they found out quick how much trouble, when Johnny brings Gaspare’s wife, obviously drunk, to the family home for a few more pops. Ray demands that Johnny leave immediately and take the girl with him, but Johnny scoffs, “I’ll leave, but only after I have sex with her.”

One thing leads to another and we find out that Johnny is not only an adulterer, but also a Communist, who disdains the business he and his brother are engaged in, not to mention Gaspare in particular. There is scene in a union hall where a female agitator (Edie Falco of The Sopranos fame) incites the Communist pro-union crowd with a fiery speech, and afterwards, we realize Johnny was lucky he wasn’t killed long before he was 22 years old.

All three brothers have long suffering wives. Ray’s is played by the talented Anabella Sciorra (who co-produced the movie); Chez’ by the very beautiful Isabella Rossellini and Johnny’s by a very young, blond and pretty Grethcen Mol. None of the three women do anything more than look sad and hopeless throughout the movie, and you can’t blame them, considering they’re married to three base hoodlums, with no obvious redeeming values and not one iota of likeablity.

There is one memorable scene where Ray and his crew bring Gaspare to a “sitdown.” Ray accuses Gaspare of murdering Johnny, because Johnny was sleeping with Gaspare’s wife. Gaspare, as cool as a pina colada in Miami Beach, says with a shrug, “I’m only going to tell you this once. I did not kill your brother.”

The rest of the movie is one surreal scene after another, where Ray somehow turns into a two-bit philosopher, then a predictable murderer. (Oh I forgot, when Ray was a child of maybe 12 years old, Ray’s father, great man that he was, handed young Ray a gun and made him blow out the brains of some poor sucker, for reasons unknown.)

The final scene is so unbelievable, I can’t believe an accomplisher director like Ferrara didn’t leave it on the cutting room floor. And if necessary, end the movie with no ending at all, right in the middle of a scene (like in the last Soprano episode).

I’d like to give this morose movie zero stars, but the actors, especially Chris Penn, give believable, if not over-the-top performances. So in the interest of fairness, I’ll give “The Funeral” 1 out of 5 stars.

But don’t say I didn’t warn you not to waste the 98 minutes needed to sit through this very bad movie.


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