De-Mystifying the Mob
Release Date: February 13, 2009
Genre: Crime Drama
Runtime: 137 minutes
Distributor: IFC Films
Director: Matteo Garrone
Executive Producer: N/A
Producer: Laura Paolucci and Domenico Procacci
Address Comments To:Jonathan Sehring, President
IFC Films/IFC Entertainment
Joshua Sapan, President/CEO
Rainbow Media Holdings LLC
(Independent Film Channel/IFC Films/IFC First Take/AMC/WE)
11 Penn Plaza
New York, NY 10001
Phone: (212) 324-8500
Totó, an adolescent delivery boy for a local grocery store, witnesses Camorra clansmen being chased by the police. Seeing the gangsters stash guns and drugs in order to hide them from the police, Totó takes the items and returns them to the mobsters. Totó is then initiated into the crime family in a bloody test of manhood. Although enamored by the lifestyle of crime at first, Totó learns harshly the deadly nature of the game, and that there is no going back.
Roberto, a college graduate, becomes the personal assistant to Franco, an executive in waste management. Seemingly a dream job, Roberto soon discovers who is really running the business. Franco runs his business with an iron fist, resorting to illegal and unsafe working conditions for his waste disposal employees. To his horror, Roberto sees the lengths Franco and the other Camorra clansmen will go to in order to cut costs and increase profits.
Marco and Ciro want to be gangsters in the worst way, and that’s exactly how they do it. Throwing caution to the wind, they steal a stockpile of weapons belonging to Camorra and go on an open shooting and crime spree. Though warned of the dangerous ground on which they’re treading, they continue their reckless antics, trying to prove themselves to the established crime bosses. Although they do finally get the attention, it doesn’t produce the result Marco and Ciro desired.
Don Ciro is a runner, delivering cash to the family members of Camorra members who are in prison. Don Ciro doesn’t think much about what he does, resigning to the mentality of, “I just do what I’m told.” When the reality of the filthy business for which he works hits too close to him, he’s left to ponder what his future would look like outside of the mob.
Pasquale is an overworked, underpaid, underappreciated tailor at a Camorra-controlled high fashion clothing mill. Desiring a chance for a better life, he takes work that secretly teaches Chinese immigrant workers the ins and outs of haute couture. However, since the Chinese are in competition with and a direct threat to the fashion houses tied to the crime syndicate, Pasquale quickly becomes a target for retribution.
The movie’s production definitely has the feel of an independent movie. One matter that will be problematic to non-Italian speaking viewers is the subtitles. The dialogue is entirely in white letters which, the majority of the time, are set against a white background, making their readability difficult.
All of the players were native Italians and were convincing and passionate in their roles. The scoring and pacing of the film seemed uneven at times, though, which sometimes distracted from what was going on with the story.
GOMORRAH isn’t like the mob films of recent years that tend to glamorize violence and immortalize those given to a life of crime. This film shows the real, everyday, relatable people whose lives are damaged by the insidious nature of organized crime. That being said, though, because of the exposé style of storytelling, nothing is left to the viewer’s imagination. Execution-style murders, bloodshed, and gratuitous violence abound. There’s a small number of sexually-explicit scenes, but the graphic nature of them is such that media-wise viewers probably should stay away. Adult language is surprisingly sparse, given the subject matter. This movie is definitely not appropriate for children or teens.
GOMORRAH, overall, does a good job of showing the dirty business organized crime really is, not like the popular Italian operas to which American audiences have grown accustomed. However, in the name of gritty realism, the movie lacks any sort of redemptive message or hope for those whose lives the Camorra has altered. Surprisingly, there are no references to God or even Catholic traditions, considering the strong presence Catholicism has always had in Italy. Some of the protagonists meet a bloody end, while some acquiesce to the trappings of a life of crime. A discouraging aspect, though, is that those who choose to walk away from the syndicate are shown to either wander aimlessly or spend their time longing for what might have been. Proverbs 13:12 says that hope deferred makes the heart sick. Viewing GOMORRAH would lead one to believe that heart-sickness is an epidemic in Naples that will never be squelched.
Unlike other mob films, GOMORRAH does not glamorize organized crime. Rather, it shows the darkness of a life of crime and the real, relatable people the mob affects. The production value is about what viewers might expect and find in an independent foreign movie. The subtitles were problematic, given the fact that they were in white letters, often shown against a white background, making reading them difficult. Although the stories of the different characters are tied together in the end, the movie offers no hope and presents a nihilistic worldview. It also has lots of graphic violence and explicit sex and nudity that will turn off media-wise viewers.