Forget about the Sicilian glamorization of “The Godfather.” This brutal Italian saga about corruption and violence reveals the ugly, soft underbelly of the Mafia-type organization that rules Naples and its infiltrates its environs through five intersecting stories about people who believe they can ‘work’ the system which generates over $233 billion worldwide each year.
Wearing a bullet-proof vest, Don Ciro (Gianfelice Imparato) is the local bag man who makes weekly treks delivering cash payoffs to the families of dead or imprisoned gangsters in the dingy housing project called Vele di Sampi. He’s carefully watched by 13 year-old Toto (Salvatore Abruzze), who’s eager to get into the ‘family’ business. Older teenagers Marco (Marco Macor) and Ciro (Ciro Petrone) are delusional rebels-without-a-cause, and it’s their image, firing automatic weapons in their underwear, that’s been publicized in posters and in the theatrical trailer.
Then there’s the cocky businessman, Franco (Toni Servillo), who hires college-educated Roberto (Carmine Paternoster) to help fulfill a toxic waste disposal contract by dumping poisonous refuse in the district around Campania. And a master tailor, Pasquale (Salvatore Cantalupo), who agrees to make clandestine midnight treks to teach Chinese competitors the intricacies of haute couture.
Based on Roberto Saviano’s 2006 bestseller, the title is not only a reference to the despicable biblical city, it’s also a play on the word ‘Camorra,’ the name of the Neopolitan criminal conspiracy. Director/cinematographer Matteo Garrone, working with several screenwriters, including Saviano, has crafted a gritty, convoluted tale of the lethal results of a power struggle within the different factions. If only he’d differentiated the characters more clearly, it would not have been so confusing.
In Italian with English subtitles, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Gomorrah” is a gritty, intense 8, culminating in a declaration that the Camorra crime syndicate has caused 4,000 deaths in the last 30 years (more than any criminal or terrorist group), funneling money into both legal and illegal enterprises, including the rebuilding of Manhattan’s World Trade Center towers, while infiltrating transport, tourism, textiles and banking,