Abel Ferrara's Depression-era gangster drama deserves kudos for its period look and solid cast, but the overwritten and faux-philosophical script (another dud by frequent Ferrara collaborator Nicholas St. John) sinks it fast.It begins with a wake for a slain young hood (Vincent Gallo), who, according to the flashbacks, was dabbling in Communism and threatened to squelch a deal between his family and local Gotti prototype Benicio Del Toro. Gallo's older brothers Christopher Walken, a somber and conflicted don, and Chris Penn, a mercurial psycho from the Joe Pesci mold, try to find out who killed Gallo and what to do about it. Eventually we discover who killed him and why, and it's both anticlimactic and unconvincing.
This is strictly a manly-man movie: Gallo's widow has a bare minimum of dialogue, as does Penn's long-suffering wife (Isabella Rossellini, who looks good, anyway). On the other hand, Annabella Sciorra (also one of the producers — coincidence?) gets more dialogue than anyone except Walken, and they're both destroyed by the lines they do get. For no reason and with no preparation, Walken turns into a sort of Catholic theorist ("God made the world; I'm just makin' do with what I got"), while Sciorra gets an egregious scene in which she says she used to go to college and then blurts out tearfully, "I have ideas!" That puts her one up on this movie.
Penn overplays his hand from the get-go; he seems to be trying out for The Lou Costello Story, and he's stuck in a vicious rape scene that cribs from Bad Lieutenant. (He does have a strong, lusty singing voice in one of his few happy scenes at a drunken bash.) The only actor I enjoyed was David Patrick Kelly in a too-brief cameo as a fervent Communist tub-thumper.Score by Joe Delia; cinematography by Ken Kelsch. Also with Gretchen Mol, John Ventimiglia, and Ferrara regulars Paul Hipp (who was Jesus in 'Bad Lieutenant') and Victor Argo.