Directed by Matteo Garrone
Written by Matteo Garrone, Maurizio Braucci, Ugo Chiti, Gianni Di Gregorio, Massimo Gaudioso, and Roberto Saviano, based on the book by Roberto Saviano
Gianfelice Imparato as Don Ciro
Toni Servillo as Franco
Carmine Paternoster as Roberto
Before "Gomorrah" started, one of the people on the film festival selection team introduced director Matteo Garrone, stating that while he was making this film he was under protection from the Italian mafia. And that was probably one of the most startling concepts that I could wrap my finger around. This is a film that does not glorify the mafia like mob classics "Goodfellas" or "The Godfather" did. This is a raw and gritty look at the Italian mafia, sometimes so disturbing in its sudden violence and tension. It's a very interesting piece, but filled with moments you would not see in a typical gangster film from Hollywood. I'd even be as bold to say that Martin Scorsese could takes notes from the realism here.
"Gomorroh" follows several different stories, weaving a dense web of mob life in Italy. There are the top men, including one who has to talk out of his throat with a device because of probable lung cancer. There are the many lower men who go around doing various jobs, including a story that takes place mostly around a sweat shop where the mafia works with Chinese workers to export goods around the country. But at the center of this piece are the children-mainly Franco and Roberto-two teenage boys who quickly get a taste of the mob life. They end up taking two machine guns and going down to the beach to shoot them-one of them even manages to blow up a boat. And then they bury the weapons and go off to a strip club to get action, which brings them into even more trouble. Not to mention the little children that have to go off and do various jobs, including a rather comedic scene where several of them are forced to drive some large trucks to deliver some goods.
"Gomorrah" is not perfect, but very absorbing. Matteo Garrone shoots with a shaky camera, giving the film a documentary-like feeling, and by casting non-professional actors he really gives the sensation that we are actually in the rooms with these characters. There are no familiar faces winking at the camera, providing comfort. It is just dark and brutal all the way. Not all of the sections managed to keep my full attention, but when the film centered around the two boys the tension is high, mostly thanks to the fiery natural performances by Toni Servillo and Carmine Paternoster. And the sudden violence and action throughout was quite shocking, and the films final scenes I began to think that there would be more danger at every turn.
"Gomorrah" is not a steady ride all the way, but there are moments, characters, and images throughout that really show the talent of Matteo Garrone. And he has crafted a highly entertaining and dismal look at mob life, vastly different from the glamor and fun that the Scorsese gangster films have. I'm not putting those down, but this is a very different approach. Both approaches effective, but in very opposite ways.