A review of “Gomorrah” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: Not Rated but should be R for language and excessive violence

Run Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes

 

 

The Italian mob is brutally up front and center in this maddening but ultimately compelling drama.

Maddening for its muddled grey areas and carelessly threaded vignettes. For all its Goodfellas-esque allure “Gomorrah” bewilders with the gritty, uncompromising glare of chaos and mayhem.

The Neapolitan Mafia – known as Camorra – is a group of roughly one hundred battling clans (specializing in drugs and weapons smuggling) that has fingers in every pot from high fashion to toxic waste.

“Gomorrah” weaves together a handful of freely interpreted tales of the criminal underworld – the ubiquitous ambitious teen climbing the ranks by running small jobs, a savvy tailor who steps out of his mob-controlled box to do business with Asian competitors and a tetchy money man – all of whom live their lives in relative fear while a couple of wasted wannabes dream of bigger fish with excess swagger and stupidity. 

Best of the bunch is a smooth as silk kingpin who takes on a wet-behind-the-ears apprentice, hoping to grease him into a slick and oily operator.

There’s no justice served in Matteo Garrone’s unsentimental tragedy, a take-no-prisoners look at the hardcore truths behind a faction of organized crime reputed to have murdered close to five thousand souls since the 1970s.

Its ugly, it’s forceful and it all takes hold without benefit of humor, glamour or a narrative life-preserver. But beyond the murky joylessness is a harsh reality that can’t be ignored, a carnivorous candor that permeates every frame with blood-curdling fascination and dread.

Revenge, served very cold, is the life-force of the Comorra, so much so that screenwriter Roberto Saviano, on whose 2006 non-fiction book the film is based, is currently living under permanent armed security. Say no more.