Starring Gianfelice Imperato, Salvatore Abruzzese
Directed by Matteo Garrone
4 stars (out of 5
By Andrea Warner
A crumbling concrete ghetto, toxic landfill, and a brothel are just three of the sometimes sinful settings at the centre of Gomorrah, a fantastic crime drama about the Camorra, the notorious Italian mafia family that rules present-day Naples.
Adapted from Italian journalist Robert Saviano’s blistering 2006 exposé of the same name (for which the author is still under 24-hour police security), the film successfully, albeit a tad confusingly, interweaves the stories of five separate people whose lives are inextricably linked to organized crime. The full extent of the mafia’s reach is both fascinating and horrifying to discover, from its involvement in the hard drug trade and government-level toxic waste disposal, to less obvious rackets like couture fashion.
Writer-director Matteo Garrone uses both famous and unknown Italian actors, wringing achingly true performances from all of them, from the wannabe teenage gang-bangers who quote Scarface, to Don Ciro (the quietly devastating Gianfelice Imparato), the mild-mannered money carrier who pays off the relatives of jailed mafia members. Watching the senior mafia members (old men who are nothing but bronzed, fat gods of their own making) play cat-and-mouse with gangly teens who ape the stylized violence they so idolize would seem almost comical if it weren’t so disturbingly sad and painfully real.
Garonne, also operating as the primary cinematographer, uses a hand-held camera to escalate the tension to an almost unbearable level, further entrenching the audience inside Gomorrah’s corrosive, corrupt world. It’s in capturing the horrific reality of the Naples underworld that the film does its best work, sucking the glamour out of the mafia lifestyle with each beautifully shot frame.