The Funeral (1996 film)

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The Funeral
The Funeral movie poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAbel Ferrara
Written byNicholas St. John
Produced byMary Kane
CinematographyKen Kelsch
Edited byMayin Lo
Jim Mol
Bill Pankow
Music byJoe Delia
Distributed byOctober Films
Release dates
  • August 28, 1996 (1996-08-28) (Italy)
  • November 1, 1996 (1996-11-01) (U.S.)
Running time
99 min.
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,412,799 (worldwide)[2]

The Funeral is a 1996 American crime-drama film directed by Abel Ferrara and starring Christopher Walken, Chris Penn, Annabella Sciorra, Isabella Rossellini, Vincent Gallo, Benicio del Toro and Gretchen Mol.

The story concerns the funeral of one of three brothers in a family of gangsters that lived in New York City in 1930s. It details the past of the brothers and their families through a series of flashbacks.

Chris Penn won the Volpi Cup for Best Supporting Actor at the 1996 Venice Film Festival for his performance. The film received five Independent Spirit Awards nominations, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Screenplay and Best Cinematography.[3]


The film begins with the funeral of one of the three Tempio brothers, a set of violent criminals. Mourning the passage of their beloved brother Johnny are Chez and Ray. Ray is cold and calculating, while Chez is hot tempered. Flashbacks show us that Johnny was more sensitive. Exposure to communist meetings as a spy sway Johnny's opinions. The chief suspect in Johnny's murder is rival gangster Gaspare Spoglia.

Ray and Chez swear revenge. Ray's wife, Jeanette, opposes the campaign of retribution and the violence it will bring, while Chez' wife, Clara, struggles to deal with her husband's obsessive nature.

Ray has Gaspare abducted for interrogation and they go to see Johnny's body. He is satisfied by Gaspare's claim of innocence, in part because he says that gangsters are superstitious, believing that the wounds of the corpse will start bleeding in the presence of the killer. Therefore the killer will not willingly enter the dead victim's presence. Gaspare is comfortable to be in the presence of the victim, so is not the killer. Ray releases Gaspare but instructs his men to murder him later.

As it turns out, Johnny was not murdered by rival gangsters, but by a man who claimed Johnny had raped his girlfriend. Ray's men identify him by tracking the car he had driven to commit the crime. Pressed by Ray, the killer confesses that he had wanted revenge because Johnny had beaten him up in front of his girlfriend and friends. Ray kills him.

As he buries the dead murderer, Chez reflects on his brothers' lives before the tragedy. He then returns to Ray's house and shoots and kills Ray and his two bodyguards. Chez then shoots Johnny, lying dead in the casket, before putting the gun in his own mouth and committing suicide as the family women wail over Ray's dying body.



Reception from critics was positive, as The Funeral holds a 79% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 34 reviews. The site's critics consensus reads, "Abel Ferrara reunites with Christopher Walken to forge another haunting gangster saga, delivering a bruising exploration of vengeance."[4]

Roger Ebert gave The Funeral three stars out of four, praising the acting especially.[5] Janet Maslin of New York Times also gave a positive review, calling it "hotblooded" and "well-acted".[6] In Entertainment Weekly, Ken Tucker described the film as "fine, thoughtful, and jolting".[7] David Parkinson of Empire gave the film four stars out of five, praising the "complex characters" and "impressive cast".[8]


  1. ^ "The Funeral - Financial Information". The Numbers.
  2. ^ The Funeral at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ "The Funeral". FilmAffinity. Retrieved September 9, 2019.
  4. ^ "The Funeral". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 11, 2023.
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger (November 8, 1996). "The Funeral". Chicago Sun-Times.
  6. ^ Maslin, Janet (November 1, 1996). "On Crime and Conscience Among Brothers". The New York Times.
  7. ^ Tucker, Ken (November 22, 2006). "Movie Review: 'The Funeral'". Entertainment Weekly.
  8. ^ Parkinson, David. "The Funeral Review". Empire.

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