Tribute to Dennis Farina
Last week the film and television community lost gifted performer Dennis Farina. The Italian-American actor made a mark for himself playing roles on both sides of the blue line – cops and criminals. Unlike many performers known for these roles he had very much lived the role for a long time. Farina only became a well known actor after three years in the army and eighteen years in the Chicago Police force investigating burglaries. There’s little doubt that this experience contributed to hardened and quick talking persona. His start in show business came with a job as consultant to Michael Mann in his crime dramas, and director saw the potential talent.
For many people Farina is best known as Det. Joe Fantana on Law and Order and the host of Unsolved Mysteries. For our tribute we’ll be turning the clock back to an early breakout role: Ray ‘Bones’ Barboni in Get Shorty.
It was tricky choosing between this role and Cousin Avi in Snatch, but it’s the extra streak of asshole that makes Barboni so awesomely memorable. Barboni is a Florida based gangster who sits at a middle management level amid the organisation. He commands respect from the foot soldiers but can’t seem to catch a break from the bosses. Being one part genuine gangster and three parts raging, arrogant dickhead he’s the perfect rival to the ultra-cool John Travolta. Between his non-stop f-bombing (“fuck you fuckball” being especially notable) and winding up on the receiving end of people’s fists he’s often the comic relief, but there’s plenty more to the role than that.
Barboni is a stooge but he’s lived the mob life for a long time and it’s easy for people to under-estimate how ruthless he is. Take a look at his best scene below – the man is all business, even when bantering with the guy threatening to shoot you. He’s unflappable, and the clip really demonstrates why one would be foolish to let his demeanour put your guard. There’s no way you don’t wince when you strikes out with the phone.
It feels that we’re saying good bye to some of our favourite gangsters at the moment. Make sure to check out Get Shorty to remember both Dennis Farina and James Gandolfini.
Rest in peace Dennis Farina.