Review: 'Gomorrah'

( Unrated ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )

True to the bloody, mundane realities of Mafia gangsters' lives, this film often devolves into incomprehensibility.

Mario Spada/IFC Films/AP
Gianfelice Imparato portrays Don Ciro, center, in a scene from "Gomorrah."

"Gomorrah" is a fictional re-creation of a nonfiction book of the same name by Roberto Saviano chronicling the Camorra criminal clans of the Campania region surrounding Naples, Italy. (Saviano has been in hiding for two years with round-the-clock police protection.) Co-written and directed by Matteo Garrone, the movie so deglamorizes the Mafia that American audiences, in particular, may feel shortchanged. But Garrone has been true to the bloody, mundane realities of the gangsters' life and their stranglehold on the community. (Their dealings in drugs, toxic-waste disposal, and high-end fashion bring in an estimated $233 billion a year.)

Garrone offers up a rich panorama of players: a master tailor (Salvatore Cantalupo) who teaches Chinese sweatshop workers; two teens (played by Marco Macor and Ciro Petrone), who want to form their own gangand relentlessly act out scenes from "Scarface"; the mob's money-runner (Gianfelice Imparato), whose daily run includes the prisonlike cement-block housing projects in the Neapolitan suburb of Scampia; and a dapper toxic-waste disposal expert (Toni Servillo), whose profit-loss calculations are loftily detached from the misery he engenders.

Garrone does not succeed altogether in sorting out for us the conflicting crime-family rivalries. This is a major defect, since it means the film often devolves into incomprehensibility. "The Godfather," by contrast, was rigorously structured for maximum narrative and emotional clarity. Garrone's messy storytelling compounds an already messy history. He's a powerful filmmaker, though, and a fearless one. He knows where the bodies are buried – and he shows them to us. Unrated. Grade: B+.

Peter Rainer

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