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The Italian movie poster for Gomorrah


Genre: Drama
Rated: R
Directed by:
Matteo Garrone
Starring: Toni Servillo, Gianfelice Imparato, Maria Nazionale, Salvatore Cantalupo, Gigio Morra, Salvatore Abruzzese, Giovanni Venosa, Salvatore Fabbricino, Bernardino Terracciano

Released by: IFC Films

In Short: This brutal look at the Italian mobsters that control Naples and the surrounding areas is compelling cinema vérité, although some judicious cutting would have made it a better film.

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21st Century Italian Mobsters
Organized Crime Is Alive and Well in Naples

The award-winning Italian film Gomorrah is a tough movie to watch, and not only because of its English subtitles. Director Matteo Garrone, who took home the Grand Prize of the Festival at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival for the movie, uses a cinema vérité style that takes viewers right into the heart of the underworld gang that currently controls Naples and its surrounding countryside, and it is not a pretty picture.

Known as the Camorra, this brutal organized crime syndicate works many of the typical gang beats, including pushing drugs, prostitution, and protection rackets within the ghetto-like public housing edifices where most of the action takes place, but then they take it one chilling step further. This gang is heavily into toxic waste disposal, too, buying up old quarries and dumping hazardous materials right into the ground.

The film is based on a thinly veiled novel that exposes many of the Camorra’s inside secrets. It’s written by Roberto Saviano, who’s been in hiding ever since it was published in 2006, for the mob is out to get him for spilling their secrets. For the movie, Garrone cast many local Neapolitans to help give the multifaceted tale a feeling of reality, which turned out to be a little too close for comfort: three of the so-called "actors"—Giovanni Venosa, Salvatore Fabbricino, and Bernardino Terracciano—have been indicted since the film for being members of the real Camorra.

From the movie Gomorrah Ciro Petrone and Marco Macor in Gomorrah

Garrone’s film weaves together five different stories (which are sometimes hard to differentiate), as different elements of the gang and the community clash, with often-deadly results. It is a harsh look at one of Italy’s biggest problems, and is nothing like the slightly glamorized American-made Mafia flicks like The Godfather or Goodfellas; even "The Sopranos" pales beside this gritty film. It's a real glimpse into the poverty-ridden, greed-filled world of the bottom feeders of Italian society.

And while Gomorrah is compelling cinema, it is overly long; we get the message loud and clear without having to sit though well over two hours of this unforgiving world. Some judicious cutting would perhaps have helped it to get an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film; as it is, the Academy passed over this, the Italian offering in that category.

Reviewed by Jenny Peters

(Updated: 10/11/10 CT)

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