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GOMORRAH (aka: GOMORRA) (director/writer: Matteo Garrone; screenwriters: novel by Roberto Saviano/RobertoSaviano/Maurizio Braucci/Ugo Chiti/Massimo Gaudioso; cinematographer: Marco Onorato; editor: Marco Spoletini; music: Robert Del Naja/Neil Davidge/Euan Dickinson; cast: Salvatore Abruzzese (Totò), Toni Servillo (Franco), Gianfelice Imparato (Don Ciro), Marco Macor (Marco), Ciro Petrone (Ciro), Maria Nazionale (Maria), Salvatore Cantalupo (Pasquale), Simone Sacchettino (Simone), Salvatore Ruocco (Boxer), Carmine Paternoster (Roberto), Bernardino Terracciano (Zio Bernardino), Ronghua Zhang (Xian); Runtime: 137; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Domenico Procacci; IFC Films; 2008-Italy-in Italian with English subtitles)
“As a result of the hardhitting, unflinching and accurate story, the author went into hiding after threats and is now under police protection.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It’s based on Roberto Saviano’s bestseller about the Camorra crime syndicate–a sinister Neapolitan mafia organization that killed at least 4,000, more than any other mobster organization, and dominates Naples’ economy by infiltrating every business from transport to banking (its profits are estimated at over $233 billion per year, as it launders its illegal money into legit businesses). It also has a strong influence on Naples’ cultural life and overall corruption and social and political way of life. As a result of the hardhitting, unflinching and accurate story, the author went into hiding after threats and is now under police protection. It’s the 39-year-old Italian director Matteo Garrone’s (“First Love”/”Guests”/”The Embalmer”) Cannes Grand Prix-winner, as he artfully weaves together five fictionalized similar themed stories to relate the mob activities to capitalism and in a fast-moving chilling documentary style grimly and violently pulls off a first-rate detailed exposé on the mafia operation of instilling fear into the community to root out opposition. Garrone pared down the immense and well-researched novel, to keep it at a reasonable length.

One story follows around the ambitious 13-year-old Totò (Salvatore Abruzzese) as he hustles for various mobs until he becomes a made man and is recruited to be a drug pusher. In another tale, the career-minded recent college grad Roberto (Carmine Paternoster) is hired as an assistant by Franco (Toni Servillo), who is a businessman getting contracts to dump toxic wastes for legit companies and doing it on the sly where health regulations are not usually followed and cancer increases wherever he operates. Marco (Marco Macor) and Ciro (Ciro Petrone) are two unsympathetic goofball hothead punky teens who picture themselves as characters in Brian De Palma’s ‘Scarface,’ that starred Al Pacino, and get into things over their head when they mess with the mafia and steal their shipment of weapons. Middle-aged economically pinched and wearily married master tailor Pasquale (Salvatore Cantalupo) will regret secretly moonlighting for a Chinese rival, as he gets sucked into giving away the tricks of the trade for what amounts to chump change and puts his life in danger from the Camorra that own his factory. Later he discovers his high fashion gown creations wind up worn by starlets during a Hollywood ceremonial show. Only Roberto and Pasquale, in the five stories, evoke any sympathy for getting involved with the mafia. And, lastly there’s the aging accountant-like money-runner Don Ciro (Gianfelice Imparato), who gets caught in the middle of a mafia war and must choose sides to survive even though he tries his best to just be a nondescript officious mafia bureaucrat doing the bidding of the higher ups in the mob by delivering payoffs to loyal mob families.

This gritty, authentic mafia film makes the usual Hollywood ones pale by comparison. It was shot in the same locale as where the story took place, and the weathered faces of the peasants and that immense crumbling cement housing project, in the Neapolitan suburb of Scampia, formed like a shoddy cruise liner, become memorable sites in a film that’s on a mission to tell it the way it is rather than to glamorize the mob in a phony way as most Hollywood films do–including Scarface. It follows the arc of Francesco Rosi’s equally gritty exposés in Salvatore Giuliano and Lucky Luciano.

Gomorrah, the title used on the American DVD, refers to the Old Testament place of sin–Sodom and Gomorrah, and acts as a wordplay on Camorra.

REVIEWED ON 12/10/2008 GRADE: A-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”