8 May 2004 | vertigo_14
Communist mobsters? Now I've seen everything!
Though he was the director of that awful thriller, 'Fear City,' Abel Ferrer offers a movie about mobsters that distinguishes it from a decade of far too many mobster-themed movies in that it does not glorify mob life. Though slow in the introduction and sometimes confusing in structure, 'The Funeral' offers good acting and an intelligent plot.
Ray (Christopher Walken), Chez (Chris Penn), and Johnny (Vincent Gallo) are brothers and members of the same crime family. I suspect that of the small crime unit, the eldest, Ray, is the leader. The film is centered around the funeral of the youngest, Johnny, who was mysteriously shot to death. And the mobsters, especially his brothers, want revenge.
Johnny was an unusual part of such a violent family, too intelligent and often passive. He seemed to be drifting from his destined life of crime, handed down to him from his father to his brothers to him. It is not the role he seeks to fulfill, and it one he often questions, much to the resentment of his brothers, Ray and Chez.
Ray is a much different character than Johnny. As the oldest, he was the first to kill a man when his father offered him a gun to shoot someone he didn't even know. Ray also absconds from any responsibility for what he does, consistenly justifying his actions as something that God forces him to do. Jean (Annabella Sciorra), his wife, asks whether he thinks it is suitable to blame God for his actions. He apparently blinds himself to any reality, and basks in the idea that he is only carrying out someone else's plan. That this is what he has to do. Jean even remarks to Johnny's wife, Helen (Gretchen Mol), that Ray and Chez and everyone else involved just keep perpetrating this one-sided, illiterate way of life.
Chez is yet another counterweight caught in the middle. He is a very sadistic character and one who soon realizes what damage is being done. With Johnny dead and Ray eager for revenge, it is up to him to determine with the cycle continues.
The nature of these characters are particularly interesting in a story that points out the realities of mafia life (for both the mobsters and their wives) as violence begets violence, making for a very intriguing story. Director Abel Ferrer did a good job with this movie. Despite being slow and sometime scattered in focus, it is worth watching.