At last - Mafia movie that doesn't glamourise the Mob

PUBLISHED: 15:58 09 October 2008 | UPDATED: 15:28 07 September 2010

BY MICHAEL JOYCE Gomorrah (15) Directed by Matteo Garrone. Starring Toni Servillo, Gianfelice Imparato, Carmine Paternoster, Salvatore Cantalupo, Salvatore Abruzzese. 135 mins Four star rating It s the enduring delusion that almost every major filmmaker indulges at some s

Gomorrah (15)

Directed by Matteo Garrone. Starring Toni Servillo, Gianfelice Imparato, Carmine Paternoster, Salvatore Cantalupo, Salvatore Abruzzese. 135 mins

Four star rating

It's the enduring delusion that almost every major filmmaker indulges at some stage of his career: the idea of making gangster movie that doesn't glamorise the mob, one that just gives you the gritty truth.

Of course it never happens. When The Sopranos started it was billed as the anti-Goodfellas, a deconstruction of a faltering mafia. But by the end Tony's family had found a place in our hearts second only to that of Homer Simpson.

This Italian effort though might actually have nailed it.

Set in the Scampia area of Napoli, it's a root and branch, top to toe examination of just how thoroughly the Camorra has corrupted Italian society. It's a movie fuelled by utter contempt for its subject, based on a book by Roberto Saviano, who now lives under police protection.

The film offers up five largely unconnected strands and throws audiences into them without much of a helping hand. They cover the Camorra's involvement in toxic waste management, fake designer clothes, but mostly, of course, the drugs trade.

It's an ensemble piece but if there is one key figure it is that of Don Ciro (Imparato) an ageing man who delivers weekly allowances to families of mobsters in prison. He seems to represent the gentlemanly, family-that-looks-after-their-own fantasy mafia the movies have so often perpetuated.

The reality is a desperate figure who moves around in constant fear as the social order collapses around him.

Garrone's style is, in his own words, "as if I were a passer-by who happened to find myself there by chance". It's all very documentary verite, with lots of handheld camera work, but every once in a while he'll sneak in a little stylish set piece.

Much of the film is set in high-rise housing estates that sit on the horizon like derelict battleships. Their elevated walkways and subterranean caverns are a vision of hell on earth, but they do offer up lots of striking visuals.

A prize winner at Cannes, the film has been a big hit in Italy, though outside its home country it may be one of those films that is admired rather than enjoyed.

Every continent has its own gangster movie tradition and in recent years the Italian mafia have been sidelined on the big screen. At the end, captions reveal the extent of the Camorra's crimes - 10,000 murders in 30 years, Scampia being the largest open air drugs market in the world, etc - and it's almost as if they're reasserting themselves.

The east European may be more violent, the Brazilian favelas more colourful but they are still the original and the worst.

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