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Francesco Di Leva
"Gomorra" is a contemporary Neapolitan mob drama that exposes Italy's criminal underbelly by telling five stories of individuals who think they can make their own compact with Camorra, the area's Mafia. Written by
A bit fragmented and unhelpful to the uninitiated but still a bleak and realistic drama
Some publications gave Gomorra a perfect rating, while others gave more basic reviews but, in a week where The Times reviewed about 10 new releases and gave this 5 stars and everything else 1 or 2, I decided this was a film I should check out and that The House Bunny could perhaps wait for another time (specifically, when it is the last film on Earth). Gomorra opens with a beauty salon hit which I imagine is meant to introduce us to the violent and treacherous world of the Cammora crime syndicate in the locality of Naples, Italy. As an impacting opening, it does work but the "introduction" idea is sadly where the film is roundly weak and it does mean that it has the potential to confuse.
Before I get a barrage of messages pointing out to me that cousins shouldn't marry, I do not mean that I could not follow the specific threads of the film but just that the film offers nothing to inform the new viewer of the world that we are about to enter. I'm not sure the best of doing this but certainly at first I didn't totally appreciate the scale of the organisation, the structure or the setting and it took me a minute as a result to get into the stories. Unlike similar films, the separate threads never really come together in any way other than they share a grounding in location and the problem of the Cammora. Outside of a specific introduction for those coming in cold, the film does give a sort of introduction to the problem as we first follow one of the characters around the nightmarish, enclosed estate of flats which seems to perform the task of judge and prison-officer as those born into it have little opportunity to escape it and essentially have their fate sealed by virtue of their environment.
Within this feat of architecture we follow several threads including a money-man, a boy getting into the life on the lowest rung, a man starting out in the corrupt world of waste management, a black-market tailor looking to earn a bit more on the side and two young men who decide to seize power in their region from the old, fat men who sit at the top. In terms of engagement, there isn't really a huge emotional draw within the film but instead it all feels very realistic and dead - so it is not so much that you feel for the specific characters so much as you have a constant sense of hopelessness and of how small and petty it all it. This is not the Italian gangsterisms of The Godfather where there is a certain sense of class and aspiration, in Gomorra the top men are trapped in the world the same as everyone else - with more money perhaps but they are not living in mansions or controlling things from a tropical island. The delivery of the film helps this as it is well shot on location and has a hand-held feel of grit and dirt. I didn't really like the technique employed throughout where the focus was on the subject in the close foreground and everything else was blurred, even as it came into play in the scene but otherwise it was well done, with the sudden moments of violence made more impacting by not being seen due to confusion simulated in the camera or by quick editing.
Gomorra has been compared to City of God, Goodfellas and all the other crime films that get wheeled out for reviews. In most ways this is not really a fair description because Gomorra does not have the style and flair of those films, nor do all the narrative threads come together neatly in the way we have come to expect. However it is still an engagingly bleak and realistic look into the world of the Cammora that is well done even if it has flaws. It is not "enjoyable" per se due to the lack of flair, but it is a very good film nonetheless and, like City of God did with City of Men, it offers the potential for a mini-series to further explore and find stories from within this world.
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