Monday, February 22, 2010

"The Sun’ll Come Out Gomorrah, Bet Your Bottom Dollar..."

Gomorrah (Gomorra)

As much as I enjoy films like The Godfather and Goodfellas, I admit that they have skewed my image of the Mafia. Those films have glamorized the mafia lifestyle to a point where it is easy to forget the average folks who end up suffering the most. Which is why a film like Matteo Garrone’s Golden Globe nominated work, Gomorrah, is so refreshing. It is a startling reminder of how so many innocent, and at times misguided, lives are destroyed by organized crime.

Gomorrah is a film that looks at five individual stories and how they are all intertwined with the Camorra, the ruling Mafia in Naples, Italy. There is the tale of Don Ciro (Gianfelice Imparato), a middleman, who distributes money to the families of imprisoned Camorra members. Totò (Nicolo Manta) a 13-year-old grocery delivery boy who wishes to initiated into the gang. Marco (Marco Macor) and Ciro (Ciro Petrone), two cocky low rent thugs who steal weapons from the Camorra’s secret stash. Pasquale (Salvatore Cantalupo) a haute couture tailor who is offered money to train Chinese garment workers at a rival factory. And finally, Roberto (Carmine Paternoster), a graduate who discovers that the toxic waste management company he works for may not be as upstanding as he initially thought.

The film is based on Roberto Saviano tell all book about the Camorra. Saviano himself was forced to go into hiding after the book was published and, after seeing Gomorrah, I understand why. The Camorra have killed more people than any other organization over the last 30 years. They literally has its hands in every aspect of society. There is nothing that they do not own, and there is not a place where they cannot find you. The fascinating, and equally unsettling, thing about the Camorra is that they essentially are a high powered corporation. Besides dealing in the drug and weapons trade, they own various companies, in numerous industries, that do business with upstanding companies on a daily basis.

This fact is highlighted in the two most compelling stories in Gomorrah, the ones revolving around Pasquale and Roberto. Both men are good natured individuals looking to make an honest name for themselves. Yet they realize, the hard way, just how far the arms of the Camorra reach. Pasquale's arc is by far the saddest of the two, especially when you see how it plays out. The scene in the car with the Chinese, and the bittersweet truck stop moment, stayed with me for a while after the film. Same goes for the scene where Roberto watches the kids driving the trucks filled with toxic waste. While these scenes are not flashy, okay, maybe the car scene, they are shocking and subtly heartbreaking.

Compelling, without being excessively violent, Gomorrah offers much needed realism to an often romanticized gangster genre. Considering how well executed this film is, I am surprised that Gomorrah did not get an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language, especially after receiving nominations at both this year's Golden Globes and BAFTA Awards. Regardless, Gomorrah is a film that should be on your "must see" short list the next time you visit your local DVD store.

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