Gomorrah

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Starring Toni Servillo and Carmine Paternoster. In Italian with English subtitles. Rated 14A. Opens Friday, April 3, at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas

The most feared of the Italian criminal organizations is unquestionably the Camorra. With ruthless efficiency, its button men have turned the slums of Naples into some of the most drug-addicted neighbourhoods in the world while carving out parallel fortunes in such fields as illegal waste-dumping, international prostitution, and the manufacture of knockoff designer duds. In Gomorra, his scathing print study of this notoriously secretive gang, Italian journalist Roberto Saviano mapped out precisely how things got done, earning a contract on his head in the process (which no one has collected on as of yet, thank God). The book also serves as the starting point for Matteo Garrone's rather different film of the same name (with a slight spelling difference).


Watch the trailer for Gomorrah.

There are two things that need to be said about Gomorrah. The first is that it is brilliant; the second, that it is not particularly entertaining. Mob hits make for exciting cinema, but that’s not what Garrone and his small army of screenwriters (including the targeted Saviano) are primarily interested in. Instead, their focus is on one crumbling Neapolitan housing project (originally designed to look like a resort hotel, although now it looks like a hospice built by bankrupt Babylonians) and the economic ties that bind its residents together.

Crosscutting five separate stories dealing with characters of different ages, Gomorrah makes even The Wire seem imprecise in terms of background detail. Apparently helped on-set by film-struck members of the Camorra (who’ve all seemingly been influenced by Al Pacino’s Tony Montana performance in Scarface), the film fairly burns with verisimilitude.

This is the kind of thing the Italian film industry used to do best. If Gomorrah is any indication, it still does.

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