4 June 2003 | Infofreak
One of the most underrated movies of the last ten years! Very subtle and intelligent with some unforgettable performances.
Abel Ferrara is one of the most original and interesting directors in America movies. He is also one of the most uneven. The guy has made some garbage and some near masterpieces in his time, so you really have to judge each one of his movies on an individual basis. 'The Funeral' is an excellent movie, easily Ferrara's most overlooked effort, and one which doesn't deserve the obscurity it's been doomed to. It's almost as impressive as 'Bad Lieutenant' and 'The King Of New York', yet I very rarely hear it even mentioned. I really don't know why! The movie has one major stumbling block that the viewer must accept before they can begin to get on with watching. That is the casting of Christopher Walken ('The Dead Zone'), Chris Penn ('Reservoir Dogs') and Vincent Gallo ('Buffalo '66'). Three great actors sure, but playing blood brothers?! Also we see that the youngest brother Johnny (Gallo) is supposedly 22(!), and via flashback his two older siblings look only three, maybe four years older. This would make Ray (Walken) in his late twenties, which is absolutely ludicrous. However, if you can put this all to one side and not let it worry you then you will be pleasantly surprised. Some viewers complain that the movie is "slow", "boring" and that "nothing happens". I totally disagree. Of course if you think it's going to be a Mafia thriller or some kind of action movie you will be disappointed. But I thought it was fascinating and very involving. Walken is excellent as usual, Gallo doesn't have an awful lot of screen time but shows why he is one of the most charismatic and exciting actors around, and Chris Penn gives the best performance of his career. Penn alone is worth watching the movie for, he is just so damn good. The supporting cast is one of the best you'll see anywhere. The brother's women are played by Annabella Sciorra ('Cop Land'), Gretchen Moll ('Rounders') and Isabella Rossellini ('Blue Velvet'), and other familiar faces include the wonderful Benicio Del Toro ('The Usual Suspects'), The Sopranos' John Ventimiglia and (very briefly!) Edie Falco, and Ferrara regulars Victor Argo ('Taxi Driver') and Paul Hipp ('Teenage Caveman'). Also keep an eye out for David Patrick Kelly ('The Crow') as a left wing agitator. Every time I watch 'The Funeral' I appreciate it a little more. It's a very subtle and intelligent film that doesn't serve things up to you on a plate. I think it's one of the most underrated movies of the last ten years and I wholeheartedly recommend it. If this is your first experience of Abel Ferrara and you enjoy it, I suggest the moody 'The King Of New York' (also with Christopher Walken) next, then his powerful 'Bad Lieutenant' (Harvey Keitel) and his difficult but rewarding 'The Addiction' (Walken again). Those four movies are his best to date, and not to be missed.