Gomorrah

"Excellent"

Gomorrah Review


A mob film that's as far from the genre's standard operating procedure as could be imagined, Gomorrah paints a bleak and impressionistic picture of a society not just riddled with gangsters, but crippled by them. Not only are the gangsters shown here resolutely unglamorous, they're disloyal, cowardly, and frequently downright stupid; if there were any cops around in this world, these guys wouldn't last a day. But the Neapolitan towns the film sets itself in seem hardly the kind of place capable of mustering a vigorous law enforcement response to the random brutality and open-air drug markets. Instead, the society appears little more than a host body for the Camorra (the particularly thuggish Neapolitan version of the Mafia), existing only to provide more euros for the weekly take and bodies for the slaughter.

Based on the nonfiction book by Roberto Saviano, Matteo Garrone's film -- a huge hit in its native Italy and Gran Prix winner at Cannes -- doesn't try to establish any empathetic connection to its characters, rare for journalistic cinema of this kind. Instead, Garrone works overtime to distance the viewer from the sadistic toughs and clueless young recruits he portrays, which helps the film's 100-proof venom to go down straight.

Split into five different narratives that share little but a general setting, and shot in a disconcertingly spooky docudrama manner (if there were such a thing as gothic cinema verite, this would be it) Gomorrah is a fractured experience right from the beginning. Characters are hurled at the viewer in such a tangle, utterly shorn of context or even background music, that one is a good half-hour in before the storylines begin to unravel. They're mostly the kind of stories about day-to-day Camorra life that one might expect. There are the two young punks obsessed with Scarface (the international criminal-artistic common denominator) who start pulling their own scams, only to fall afoul of the local boss. Or the young innocent who tragically graduates from grocery delivers to gang lookout.

But while these plots have a dirty poignancy of their own, it's the screenplay's more offbeat stories that are the most affecting. In one, a tailor whose boss owes money to the Camorra, freelances at night teaching in a factory full of Chinese workers busy turning out designer knockoffs. Another has a young initiate being schooled by a gentlemanly older gangster on the fine art of procuring toxic waste and dumping it in resolutely unsafe sites -- not only a huge money-maker for the Camorra but a massive, ticking, cancerous, environmental time bomb for Italy -- at one point even using clueless young children to drive the contaminated trucks.

Most other films would utilize the courtly man to symbolize some false image of an idealized earlier gangster, holding the line against the barbarians of today. But as Gomorrah makes clear over and again, this is not an organization with any need for romantic notions of honor. They exist only to make money off anything possible, whether it's fake designer goods, drug dealing, robbery, extortion, or hurling barrels of carcinogens into the ground where they can leach into the water supply. It's a million dirty little scams that, all taken together, appear to squeeze out the opportunity for any legitimate society to function.

Gomorrah is the mob movie as postapocalyptic warning, shot with dark precision inside dingy and overcrowded apartment complexes whose crumbling concrete and peeling paint make a mockery of the beautiful landscape outside. There's an echo here of J.G. Ballard's fiction, with dead-eyed little street punks making life-or-death decisions with a shrug amidst the rubble.

The film's sprawling length and stately pacing can make some parts of it tough going. But Garrone builds his momentum in masterful fashion, building towards the film's sad, devastating finale with jabs of jolting bloodshed and arbitrary tragedy. The fact that he does it all without for a second exploiting, City of God-style, any of the violence depicted, is all the more impressive.

Aka Gomorra.

The new Cosa Nostra.



Gomorrah

Facts and Figures

Run time: 137 mins

In Theaters: Friday 16th May 2008

Box Office USA: $1.5M

Distributed by: IFC Films

Production compaines: FFF Bayern, Rai Cinema, IFC Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Fresh: 130 Rotten: 12

IMDB: 7.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Matteo Garrone

Starring: Salvatore Abruzzese as Toto, Simone Sacchettino as Simone, Salvatore Ruocco as Boxer, Vincenzo Fabricino as Pitbull, Gianfelice Imparato as Don Ciro, Maria Nazionale as Maria, Salvatore Striano as Scissionista, Toni Servillo as Franco, Carmine Paternoster as Roberto, Alfonso Santagata as Dante Serini, Salvatore Cantalupo as Pasquale, Gigio Morra as Iavarone, Ronghua Zhang as Xian, Marco Macor as Marco, Ciro Petrone as Ciro, Giovanni Venosa as Giovanni

Also starring:

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