Saturday, April 4, 2009


Gomorrah is a gritty, realistic look at the Italian mafia, more specifically the Camorra crime family based in Naples, whose reach extends around the world. The film is based on the book of the same name by Roberto Saviano, who went undercover and put his life in danger while doing research for the book. The fact that he is under police protection to this day adds to the haunting realism portrayed in the film. This film is also presented by Martin Scorsese, and is more similar to Scorsese's take on the mafia than the romanticism of The Godfather and other popular mafia films. It goes beyond a traditional narrative, using documentary style episodes to unabashedly display the characters and their plights.

The film follows five different sets of characters, none of which actually cross paths. We see a master tailor working indirectly for the Camorra, whose loyalty is questioned when hired by the Chinese to teach a class; two teenagers who want to be Tony Montana and grow their own criminal organization from scratch, fearlessly crossing paths with the Camorra in the process; a cash delivery man, making his weekly rounds, caught in the middle of an internal struggle with a gang of defectors and the Camorra; a chronically unemployed young man who gets a job as a personal assistant to a mobster in charge of toxic waste dumping; a boy of about 10 or 12, who makes a decision that seals the fate of him and his family.
There is no huge twist or reveal at the end to tie them all together. What ties them together is simply their association with the Camorra. The bosses at the very top are never seen. We know nothing of the hierarchy, their grand scheme, or the mastermind behind any of it, only the bleak day to day struggles of a few minor characters in this huge, expansive enterprise. It is so ingrained in that society and easy to get involved that most probably don't even realize it or give it much thought. There's a real sense of the normalcy in the connections between legal business establishments and the criminal underworld, which isn't really an "underworld" at all.

The violence is brutal and frequent, never stylized or glorified in any way. There's a growing sense of dread as we witness these characters hopelessly struggling against an unmovable force of evil. The film doesn't judge them, but presents each story with unflinching honesty. There is no melodrama or sentimentality to be found as these characters come to realize and settle into their fate. Some try to act in a positive manner, others resign to their bleak situation, and some are oblivious to it. This harsh look into their world is abrasive and unsympathetic, but ultimately truthful.

Gomorrah stands strongly on it's own as a work of art, but also educates its audience, lifting the sexy veil of Hollywood gangster flicks to reveal the monster beneath. It is not necessarily an enjoyable movie to watch, but an important one none the less; shot with great technical prowess and directed with both vision and attention to detail. Brace yourself, and then see this movie.

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