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Critic's Pick

'The Funeral'

January 25, 1998|Kevin Thomas

Abel Ferrara's 1996 release takes us down the familiar mean streets of the period gangster picture as if we hadn't been there many times before. Ferrara and his frequent co-writer, Nicholas St. John, typically match extreme ferocity (and some raunchy sex) with an extraordinary complexity of character and intricacy of plot. In fact, it's safe to say that in the American cinema, there's never been a gangster movie quite like this. Ferrara and St. John have transformed the Mafia melodrama of revenge into Greek tragedy with such precision and compactness that you'd think they'd designed the film with Aristotle's Poetics in hand. Christopher Walken stars as a union protection racketeer whose fiery idealistic youngest brother (Vincent Gallo) is gunned down. Chris Penn is their middle brother. With Benicio Del Toro, Annabella Sciorra (pictured) and Isabella Rossellini (Cinemax Friday at 8 p.m.).

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