Cult figure Abel Ferrara directed this dark, emotional tale of life among the criminal underworld, set in the late 1930s. The Tempio Brothers -- Ray (Christopher Walken), Chez (Chris Penn), and Johnny (Vincent Gallo) -- work with the mob; Ray is the cool and methodical type, Chez is an angry man who tends to fly off the handle, and Johnny is the odd man out, whose work with labor unions has given him a strong interest in socialism. When Johnny is murdered by rival mobster Gaspare (Benicio del Toro), it has a profound effect on his brothers. Ray is determined to seek revenge, even though his wife Jeanette (Anabella Sciorra), realizing a reprisal will only lead to more violence, begs him to reconsider, while Chez begins losing his tenuous grip on reality, causing no small discomfort for his wife Clara (Isabella Rossellini). In time, both brothers are forced to deal with the ugly repercussions of their family's long-standing criminal lifestyle. Chris Penn's performance as Chez earned him the "Best Actor" trophy at the 1996 Venice Film Festival.
by Mark Deming synopsis