Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

Angel Baby

 

“You’ve got to be ready for moments like these, ready to drown your ruined heart as soon as it starts beating again.”  — from ANGEL BABY.

 

In 2013, Elmore Leonard left us, and I took that pretty hard. If there is any silver lining to that loss, it’s that his influence reverberates through the work of several younger writers. I’ve read plenty and as much as it counts, my vote for the best of all of them is Richard Lange, whose book of short stories DEAD BOYS and first novel THIS WICKED WORLD I snapped up and can’t recommend any more highly.

 

DEAD BOYS  THIS WICKED WORLD

 

 

This new novel, ANGEL BABY, is about Luz, the beautiful wife of Rolando, a.k.a. El Principe, an abusive drug kingpin in Mexico who escapes across the border to California, helped by Malone, a doomed man who isn’t much of a lifeline. They’re pursued by a man named Jerónimo, a deadly assassin who won’t ever relent, because Rolando has his family’s lives under the trigger. There’s also a crooked American cop looking to get the money Luz swiped from Rolando, because there are a lot of different breeds of bad people in this world and therefore in this book also. Luz will walk right through the crossfire, because she has a daughter on the other side, the subject of the story’s title. 

Now, that’s not a far cry from an Elmore Leonard plot, though I’d halt the [favorable] comparisons there and emphasize the uniqueness of Richard Lange’s writing, which has a flavor and a legitimacy and a sadness all its own. Lange is more of a street-level poet.  His prose and dialogue feel real and believable, yet they resound with fatalistic import. There are lines in this book that can break your heart and the heartbreak aftershocks last long after the speedy read is done.

In a slight return to comparisons, Lange’s depictions of California and Mexico have a verisimilitude I’d venture to liken to John Fante, though Lange’s work is more readily cinematic. An Edward Hopper painting sprung to life, maybe. If there is a movie, which isn’t out of the realm of possibility, Michael Mann would knock it out of the park. The gut-punching romanticism of ANGEL BABY is right up that alley. Read if you like. Or if you don’t! It’s good enough to stand on its own merits, a unique blend of border noir, hard-boiled crime, and corrido music.

ANGEL BABY is everything you could want in a crime novel: protagonists who can frustrate and move you, villains who are scary as all hell, action that feels alive, and emotional impact that lingers. Richard Lange’s work is bruising and vital. I can’t wait for his next book.

 

SWEET NOTHING

 

This piece was expanded a little from my article on the best books of 2013. Find out more about ANGEL BABY on the book’s official site and on Richard Lange’s author page.

 

 

@jonnyabomb

 

 

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The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

 

As soon as it hit theaters, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET was met with a surprising and vehement pushback. It’s surprising because a new Martin Scorsese film is generally met with critical reverence, but prominent outlets such as the New Yorker, the Village Voice, New York Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, Time, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Post all took a dump on this one. And if that sounds like a lot, you ought to see the amount of online thinkpieces scolding the movie’s supposed endorsement of greed, misogyny, and misanthropy. While I love to see people talking passionately about a Martin Scorsese movie in 2013 (and now 2014), I think the people who have been decrying THE WOLF OF WALL STREET for supposedly glorifying its subject need to sit down, take a breath, relax, and then take a second look at it. Does this film, at a breezy three hours, make the story of fraudulent stockbroker Jordan Belfort entertaining? Yeah, at three hours it had probably better. Does it condone his amoral behavior, his criminal actions, his borderline sociopathic worldview? Not for a second.

 

LEO DOLLARS

 

The real Jordan Belfort is in this movie, for the record. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a version of him throughout the film, but in the very last scene, there’s a cameo by the actual guy. He appears briefly at the top of the movie’s final scene, as the one introducing DiCaprio-as-Belfort at a speaking engagement, and I’d like to tell you something about my viewing experience here: I hated that guy on sight. His smirking face, his gratingly irritating voice; it makes my hand curl into a fist just thinking about it. I didn’t even know that role was performed by Jordan Belfort until the end credits rolled. His appearance almost took me out of the movie, and not because I knew who he was. My thoughts went something like, “Jesus Christ, that’s the most obnoxious extra ever.”

 

PIXAR'S WALLEYE

 

So Leonardo DiCaprio isn’t playing Jordan Belfort, not exactly. DiCaprio’s performance is charming and entertaining, and it needs to be, or the movie couldn’t hold its audience for a fraction of its running time. A movie can satisfy the needs of its audience while also delivering a message. DiCaprio’s performance is a vessel which delivers the moral mission of the movie. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET doesn’t glorify Jordan Belfort; it uses him. He’s displayed as a parable. People are angry to think Jordan Belfort got paid for the rights to his life story. I get that. But consider the case of Henry Hill, the man who provided the source material for GOODFELLAS. Sure, he was played by the handsome and charming Ray Liotta, and yes, he probably got paid. Does anybody watch GOODFELLAS wishing they were Henry Hill? In real life, after he came out of hiding, he had debilitating substance abuse problems and basically became a member of Howard Stern’s Wack Pack, and not even one who’s beloved, like Beetlejuice or Eric The Actor.

 

MARTY PITCHES IN

 

When contemplating the moral message of THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, we are helped greatly by considering the track record of the man who made it. This isn’t the guy’s controversial debut film. Haven’t we been through this cultural conversation before, multiple times, only to finally come to a reasonable consensus? Martin Scorsese is rightly and highly ranked among the most well-regarded of living film directors. Scorsese is a movie-mad Catholic, one of the most thoughtful artists ever to probe the matter of man’s violent nature. He uses film both as the medium of communication and as the metaphorical fuel stoking the fire. This is the man who made THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, about the thoughts of Jesus while hanging upon the cross. Therefore, I do believe Scorsese is someone who is concerned with spirituality and ethics. This is the man who made KUNDUN, a movie which treats the Dalai Lama with reverence. I do not believe Martin Scorsese endorses dwarf-tossing.

 

KAMIKAZE!

 

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET makes people uneasy because it is so thoroughly entertaining. That’s good. That’s a testament to the movie’s effectiveness. After four decades of making and perfecting excellent movies, Scorsese knows how to work an audience like few others. This film spends the majority of its running time showing how Belfort left Wall Street (making the title a bit inaccurate, ironically) because he wanted to start a criminal enterprise even more profitable than the everyday swindling. It shows how selfish and shallow he was, how he hurt people without a second thought during his monomaniacal pursuit of women, drugs, and especially money. It shows how he won over his trophy wife and lost her (Australian actress Margot Robbie, a stunner who does a pitch-perfect New York accent and should have been in the running for all the awards). This guy hits a beautiful woman, one of the worst things a man can do in a movie. The movie doesn’t condemn him, seems impartial in point of fact. Shouldn’t it condemn him? Shouldn’t someone condemn him?

 

AMERICAN DOUCHEBAG

 

Consider how much time is spent showing Belfort’s punishment. It isn’t much. Belfort’s downfall takes up comparatively little screentime, his time in prison confined to one short scene, and even that takes place on an open-air tennis court. This movie shows us everything this bastard did, in gory detail, and then it doesn’t give us the sight of the punishment he deserves. That’s why so many people are troubled by this movie. Jordan Belfort got away with it. He did all those things, and he basically got away with it.

 

la_ca_1222_wolf_of_wall_street

 

And he’s just one guy.

 

Implicit in the film is that Jordan Belfort is not the only one who was doing what he was doing, that there are plenty who are still doing it. If that bothers us, it should. One reason we love movies is because they are tidier than real life. The good guys win and the bad guys get it in the end. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET gives us all that pleasure and then denies us the pleasure of seeing Jordan Belfort get his come-uppance. It works us up and then it gives us blue balls. That’s what we, as America, deserve. We let these guys get away with it, every day. Our national economy has been raided time and again by predators easily as bad as Jordan Belfort, and they are rewarded, not imprisoned. That’s not politics. That’s a measurable truth. But it’s an unpopular truth, and so it needs to be snuck into people’s minds inside of a yummy dessert. So very far from being an immoral film, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET is in fact the most daringly moral film of the year.

 

@jonnyabomb

 

 

This piece originally appeared in slightly different form on Daily Grindhouse.

 

Quick Change

 

Lost In Translation

 

I’ve got a pitch for you:  QUICK CHANGE meets LOST IN TRANSLATION.  Only our movie is nothing like that at all, really.  You’d have to flip the premise of the first, and turn the second inside out.  In QUICK CHANGE, Bill Murray played a depressive bank robber.  In LOST IN TRANSLATION, he played a depressive movie star abroad in Japan.

In real life, Bill Murray was reportedly walking down the street when this happened:

“I saw this man running towards me with a bag in his hand. Then he suddenly stopped when he saw me and asked me if I was Bob Harris, the character I played in LOST IN TRANSLATION.

I told him, ‘Sure, why not?’ Then he started telling me how much he loved me.”

The man in question had just robbed the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, which is the largest bank in Japan.  The distraction provided by Bill Murray’s presence reportedly proved to be enough for police to apprehend the bank robber.

This may sound improbable to you, but do not underestimate the power of the presence of Bill Murray.

I have only been in the presence of Bill Murray once (that I know of), and it was on a press junket.  Given the opportunity to ask Bill Murray a question, I shut down entirely.  It wasn’t that I was nervous.  It was that the decision was an impossible task for me.  How could I narrow down all the questions that I have for Bill Murray to just one?  There is so much that we can ask Bill Murray.  God help you if you make it about GHOSTBUSTERS 3, son, because I won’t.

So while some Bill Murray stories sound like fictionalized rumors that become urban legends, I can absolutely believe that a Japanese bank robber would stop in his tracks at the sight of Bill Murray.  It is a momentous decision, to become so desperate or so bold as to break the laws of society and venture into a bank to forcefully seize money not one’s own, but it is that much more a momentous occasion to encounter Bill Murray in the wild.  One must accept each moment as it comes.

More on this story as it develops.

 

billmurrayelevator

 

@jonnyabomb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

billmurrayhappiness

 

 

 

You know why this is showing up here now.  This is here because, try as I might, there was no way I was going to be able to let 2012 pass without any comment on THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.  That will be up soon enough.

But first, my thoughts on 2008’s THE DARK KNIGHT, since it was one of the first movies I ever wrote about online.  As far as the public record is concerned, I never have gotten around to writing anything about 2005’s BATMAN BEGINS, though maybe I should.

What follows is a condensed version of two separate posts I wrote on the same movie — you’ll see as you read it how, even in 2008, I was trepidatious about voicing any reservations about such a critical and popular prize-hog.  As some have since found out the hard way, my initial instincts weren’t too far off the mark.

People were in a frenzy over these movies before they even arrived in theaters.  And then things got even worse.

For some reason, while many people seemed to be comparatively lukewarm on BATMAN BEGINS (I loved it, by the way), there are many who seem to take THE DARK KNIGHT and THE DARK KNIGHT RISES even more seriously than they do those two presidential elections that happened in 2008 and 2012.  Let’s put it this way:  I’ve never met an “undecided voter” when it comes to Nolan-Batman fans.

Maybe it’s fitting that fearsome madness should erupt around a character who primarily exists as a storytelling prism by which to examine madness and fear.  But he’s also a character whose best stories involve conquering those twin demons, and that, I think, is why he means so much to so many of us.

So these are my opinions about some Batman movies.  That’s all they are.  You can agree or you can disagree.  I’m sure I’ll hear about it either way.

 
________________________________________________________________________________

The Dark Knight (2008)

THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)

Directed by Christopher Nolan.

Written by Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan.

Starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Tommy “Tiny” Lister.

About THE DARK KNIGHT, an ocean has been said.  My pontifications may be just another drop in that ocean, but it’s a pretty damn sincere drop.  I love Batman.  Have done ever since I was shinbone-high.  This is a character close to my heart, so what the hell, here it is, my two cents on THE DARK KNIGHT:

Mostly, I totally loved it.  There were a lot of great moments, and when I say great, I mean astounding.  I can’t recommend strongly enough that this one be seen on IMAX, where the full-screen city establishing shots and most of the action sequences reclaim that overused word “awesome”.   And hard as it is to do nowadays, ideally one should go in knowing as little about the plot as possible, because this movie has the power of surprise.  I did as good a job as I could do of blocking out such knowledge prior to the fact, but it wasn’t easy.  The pre-release thunder was deafening.

And it’s great.

But it’s not perfect.

It comes so close.  THE DARK KNIGHT is the most like Icarus of all superhero films; it just almost touches the sun.

We all know by now what’s so incredible and superlative and timeless about this movie – Heath Ledger’s uniquely intense and committed portrayal of the Joker, about which I can write absolutely nothing that hasn’t already been said by more influential writers; the portrayal of Batman by Christian Bale, just as good yet way underrated by comparison; Wally Pfister’s crystal clear cinematography, even more breathtaking when seen on IMAX screens; the deceptively simple, sharp production design by Nathan Crowley; the fantastic score by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard — a marvel of simplicity with its ominous theme for the lead character (that cresting wave of just two notes) and its even more ominous theme for his nemesis (that dirge of just ONE note) — and of course, the overall vision of Christopher Nolan, a director uncommonly interested in big ideas and engaging the widest possible audience with them.

By all rights this should be my favorite comic book movie ever, and in many of its many incredible moments, it almost seizes that title.  But the flaws hold it back, for me.  They are sizable flaws or I would not have honed in on them.  There are three in total.

1. Two-Face coming up out of nearly nowhere.

Everybody noticed this problem; that’s how you know it’s a problem.  The movie did a great job setting up valiant district-attorney Harvey Dent’s rise and fall, but then abruptly fast-forwarded him into the murderous Two-Face in the third act and [spoiler] killed him off.  Why?  Because somebody had to die.  SOMEBODY had to pay for [spoiler] what happened to Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Obviously there was initially a plan to keep the Joker in these movies, so when real life events cruelly made that impossible, it was apparently deemed necessary by the powers that be (whether they be the Nolans or the higher-ups) that the other major villain had to die.  This is part of the weird, hypocritically-puritanical morality of big-budget Hollywood movies.  For some reason, the vast majority of these major comic book movies don’t seem to be narratively satisfied until they have blood; until they kill off a villain at the end.  The Jack Nicholson Joker, the Danny DeVito Penguin, the Willem Dafoe Green Goblin, the James Franco Green Goblin, the Alfred Molina Doctor Octopus, and so on — all killed off, even at the weighty expense of the merchandising opportunities of the future.

So now this new Batman franchise has the terrible conundrum of having killed off a well-developed villain character onscreen, when the remaining well-developed villain character survives onscreen but has been tragically lost offscreen.  (Don’t get me started on how awful that situation is.)  And now the fans are heatedly debating which villain from the fifty-years-stale rogues gallery should be dusted off for the inevitable sequel.

My humble suggestion?

Forget Catwoman.

Forget the Riddler.

Forget the Penguin.

PLEASE forget the Penguin.

Forget them all, and let the Nolans create an entirely new villain.  You know they can do it.  They made Ra’s Al Ghul compelling, and who besides the most devoted fans and the working comics folk remembered him before BATMAN BEGINS?  A new villain is the answer.  The most important character in this series has always been Batman, and the first two movies have been built around him.  The next one should follow suit.

2. The vacuum where a love interest should be.

The other major problem with THE DARK KNIGHT, and I hate to say it because I really have liked her in other movies, is Maggie Gyllenhaal.  The character is what it needs to be, but the performance is a dead zone.  If the smart, sarcastic, lively Maggie Gyllenhaal from STRANGER THAN FICTION had shown up for THE DARK KNIGHT, than there wouldn’t be a problem.  But here she seemed entirely disengaged, apathetic, bored.  I didn’t believe for a minute that both Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent would be so into this dull woman, and I didn’t feel her loss to be as tragic as it very much needed to be.  On a narrative level, this movie needs the audience to fall in love with Rachel Dawes so that when we lose her, we understand why it sends Batman on the path he takes at the end.  In that role, neither actress who’s played it has cut the mustard.

Why do these comic book movies have so much trouble finding an equally compelling female lead?  Strong man need strong woman.  Would we care as much about STAR WARS if Carrie Fisher didn’t bring cojones to Princess Leia?  I don’t think so.  Don’t cram a love story into my Batman movie if you can’t make me care about the lady involved.

Without that, no, you don’t have the greatest comic book movie ever.  You have a very good comic book movie, but not The Greatest-Ever Comic Book Movie. That’s hopefully still to come.

Do I have a suggestion?  Yes.  Just off the top of my head:  Michelle Monaghan continues to strike me as an easy answer to a whole lot of problems.

3. The mumbo-jumbo.

This is a tough argument to make, because it’s one of the things I appreciate so much about the Nolan approach to these movies.  These are films built to house expansive ideas, about fear and heroism and governance.  I respect that.  It’s a far nobler thing, in every way, than the standard overheated empty-headed blockbuster.   In a world of TRANSFORMERS movies, I can’t believe I’m about to complain about a movie being too smart.

But it gets to be a little much, I think.  For my tastes, anyway.  There’s SO much talk, so much speechifying.  It’s not as if the terrific action scenes don’t make up for it, of course, but I feel like the movie is weighted down with a lot of weighty talk.  Nowhere is this clearer than the prison barge scene, where the Joker threatens to blow up one of two ferries, one carrying civilians and one carrying inmates.  After several fraught moments of dramatic pauses and much debate, the inmates make the first move to act — but properly.  This is all very well-written and I do get what Nolan is trying to do — to portray the city of Gotham and its people as much as their caped protector.  But, to me, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a long, very talky sequence in the middle of what, at its core, had better be an action movie.

In this movie, everybody’s got a whole lot to say about masks and capes and chaos and order and family and legacy — does anybody else feel like they’re auditing an undergraduate lecture in moral philosophy being given a guy in a Batman costume, or is it just me?

The Dark Knight (2008)

In light of these three not-minor complaints, I quietly suggest that this DARK KNIGHT is not exactly the perfect movie I heard tell of before I went in to see it, that best-of-year, best-of-decade, flawless masterpiece to be raved over for the last couple weeks and onwards until eternity.  It’s a strong B-plus.  It’s a flickering A-minus.  There’s just a little bit of all-the-way excellence missing there.  However: I do still feel that if we are yet to see a perfect Batman movie, Chris Nolan will be the one to deliver it.  This time around though, my eyes, mind, and butt, and the A-plus grade of the movie itself, coulda used about twenty minutes shorn from the run-time.

And I’m going to stop there for now, because we’re on the internet after all. Here on the internet, people get threatened with death, or worse, for writing less offensive sentiments than the simply suggestion that THE DARK KNIGHT may not actually be the be-all and end-all of superhero movies.

Trust me when I say that I do not fear death, but nor do I much see the need to, before my time, invite death over for a chat about politics.

Find me on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb

I haven’t posted much in a while.  I alluded to the reasons here, in the post which so far represents the unintentional culmination of my October horror column (which I still hope to resurrect in some form before years’ end.  This damn optimism will never die!)

The point is, sometimes life gets in the way.  And sometimes life refuses to get out of the way.  And occasionally, life mercilessly pummels your face in.

So I haven’t been posting here much this month, but when I’m not around these parts I can be found over at Daily Grindhouse  — here are my recent pieces on VIGILANTE, GET CARTER, HIT MAN, GREMLINS 2, END OF WATCH, DREDD, LAWLESS, and DRIVE ANGRY — so please check them out.

And I’ve certainly been thinking plenty.  I’ve got enough thoughts stored up for several volumes worth of reviews and essays.  There’s a lot of writing to come from me.

But one thing I’ve been thinking about is a particular movie I watched last year.  I added VIVA RIVA! to my 2011 top ten list without any idea that a year later, it might have any parallel to my own life.  Quick synopsis:  A gasoline shortage in the Congo leads to violence and distress.  Quick synopsis of the past month:  A gasoline shortage in the Tri-State Area leads to violence and distress.  I’m not saying we had it worse here than they have it in a third-world country.  I’m only saying that it feels a lot less foreign to me.  Hurricane Sandy gave us a small taste of what is commonplace in many places in the rest of the world.  Having seen neighbors getting into screaming matches and fistfights over a tank of gas, I’ve had my perspective shifted just a little bit.  It wasn’t scary to me, though it was to some (understandably).  It was just weird.  Strip away a few modern-day conveniences and you start to learn some harsh truths — and surprising virtues — about people.

 
Anyway here’s the trailer, and then what I wrote in 2011:

_________________________________

VIVA RIVA! (Congo, released in U.S. in 2011)

What It’s About:

In a community where gasoline is a precious commodity, a devil-may-care rogue thief (Patsha Bey Mukuna) rips off a gas shipment from some very bad men, then runs into trouble when he falls for a local gangster’s girlfriend (Manie Malone.)

Why I Love It:

Because it’s electric.

Before I get to what makes this film so thrilling on a cultural level, let me start out by promising that it’s a solid crime film no matter what part of the world it’s from.  The plot relies on familiar noir tropes – the femme fatale, the murderous nemesis, the doomed hero – but where the story lacks in originality, the film more than makes up for it in atmosphere and intensity.

This is a low-budget movie shot entirely practically in a real community using primarily local talent, which gives the movie an added urgency and veracity.  This isn’t some ROAD WARRIOR future where gangs battle over gasoline — this is really happening in the world right now.  Imagine that; imagine the gasoline we Americans so take for granted being the currency that believably powers criminal enterprise in crowded, poverty-stricken villages.

But even amidst all that urgency and desperate verisimilitude, there’s also a harsh beauty to this movie.  The nightlife in Kinshasa feels vivid and seeped in detail and danger, and the sexuality in this movie has a fierceness and forthrightness rarely seen in European cinema, let alone puritanical American movies.  If there were rankings based on 2011′s most assertive (and acrobatic) cunnilingus scenes, this movie would have that position licked.

But it’s not just honest sex that makes this film so intriguing.  VIVA RIVA! serves as nothing less than the ignition of a nation’s film industry.  On the DVD, director Djo Tunda Wa Munga talks about how he specifically designed the film’s plot to be familiar and genre-based because there aren’t a whole lot of Congolese films out there, and he wanted this one to be as accessible as possible in order to gather the international appetite for more films from the Congo.  With VIVA RIVA!, we’re seeing an entire film industry start from the ground up, and that’s an exciting thing to watch.

Is It On Netflix Instant?:  Yes!

And find me, instantly, on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb

 

I wrote about the new movie END OF WATCH over at Daily Grindhouse.  It’s a good movie, worth a look if you have the nerves for it, and I tried to do it justice. 

>>>CLICK HERE FOR THE REVIEW!<<<

 

And if you’re not already, follow me on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb

 

Abel Ferrara is a controversial cult director who is probably best known for his most notorious movie, Bad Lieutenant.  That’s the one that’s supposed to be super-violent and is widely-feared for prominently featuring full-frontal Harvey Keitel.  I’ve never felt the need to voluntarily submit myself to that image, but I have seen Ferrara’s nearly-as-infamous film, King Of New York.  And I liked that one, but not nearly as much as the Notorious B.I.G. did.  (Biggie called himself “the black Frank White,” after Christopher Walken’s character.)  Ferrara also directed the pilot to Michael Mann’s excellent 1980s TV series, Crime Story.
Knowing all that, though, I still didn’t know what to expect of The Funeral.
 Turns out it’s a New York crime story, set in the 1930s, and centers around three first-generation Italian brothers.  The brothers are played by Christopher Walken, Chris Penn, and Vincent Gallo.  Their father appears briefly in flashbacks, but I have to assume that there were three very different mothers with the incongruous mugs on that trio.
The three are all members of a local crime family, but Walken is contemplative and a family man, whereas Penn also runs a bar, and Gallo sneaks out to radical union meetings.  At the outset of the film, Gallo is in a coffin, and his two older brothers don’t yet know the identity of his killer. (Don’t read Wikipedia’s entry on this movie, by the way; they have it wrong.)
The Funeral is an increasingly interesting movie as it progresses, because while it starts as a loosely-structured collection of scenes — many of which not dissimilar to familiar mob movie clichés — it delves deep into the Walken and Penn characters and comes up with very much worthwhile results.  Chris Penn, in particular, makes the movie absolutely necessary to watch, as he takes the traditional Sonny Corleone hothead character and turns it into a heartbreaking, horrific portrayal of real mental illness.  It’s an amazing showcase for a much-missed character actor.  And who knew the guy had such an incredible singing voice?
In fact, the acting bench is stacked way deep with great character actors.  Annabella Sciorra, who also produced along with Russell Simmons (!), plays Walken’s wife.  Isabella Rossellini plays Penn’s.  Gretchen Mol is Gallo’s widow.  Benicio Del Toro has a substantial early role as a rival gangster who may or may not have been behind the trigger.  John Ventimiglia, the never-fortunate Artie Bucco from The Sopranos, plays Walken’s consigliere.  Victor Argo, a great New York actor who Scorsese fans will immediately recognize, has a brief role as a spooky enforcer.  Frank John Hughes (Wild Bill from Band Of Brothers) has a similar role.  David Patrick Kelly (you know him from The Warriors) has one great scene as a union speaker.  Edie Falco (Carmella!) has a cameo in there.  So does Joey G (Vito!).
So yeah, if you’re a character-actor aficionado like I am, The Funeral is like a piñata full of goodness.  David Chase obviously saw it.

 

I ended up digging on The Funeral, but I’m not sure if I’m a newly-converted Ferrara fan, exactly.  Then again, Ferrara’s upcoming project, Jekyll and Hyde, was announced not too long ago, and it’s supposedly a re-envisioning of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, starring Forest Whitaker as Jekyll and 50 Cent as Hyde.  I will absolutely watch that movie.

 

 

Come find me on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb