Gomorrah presents an unflinching, realistic view of modern organized crime.
The film begins with several gangsters being killed while in a tanning salon which begins a feud between the DiLaurio syndicate and the separatists. There are five intertwining tales of people affected by the Camorra: Totó is young a delivery boy who is taken in by a gang. Marco and Sweet Pea are two kids looking to rise to power on their own and steal some guns from gang members. Don Ciro is a money runner for families with imprisoned members. Pasquale is a tailor and designer that works for a gang member and takes another job with some competition. Roberto works in waste management while his boss, Franco, does shady dealings.
If the plot points of Gomorrah sound confusing, well, they are. This isn’t like Pulp Fiction where all the stories end up overlapping and tying up together, it’s more like Traffic in that they are stories under the same umbrella of events. The film, which is based on the book of the same name (Gomorra, in Italian), is rooted in fact and it’s easy to see that the film is a realistic portrayal of the dealings with the Camorra syndicate. What is not evident, however, was some of the history behind the feud going on and there is a level of understanding needed that the film doesn’t really provide on its own.
Even without fully understanding the motivation for some of the stories, or even what was happening at certain points, Gomorrah is truly gripping. This is not the mafia we have come to expect from other films, there are no fancy suits and mansions for all the members, most of the film takes place in what are essentially projects in what can only be called a ghetto.
Most of the actors in Gomorrah seem to be non-actors which helps give the film a sense of realism. While the opening scene in the tanning salon is bright and the techno music is thrumming, the rest of the film is mostly gray or brown with no soundtrack. It doesn’t feel like a documentary, it feels like a film, but it’s an interesting and realistic approach to presenting the stories. Of course, the Criterion Collection treatment is well above average, as always. Now that I have seen the film (I should really watch it again now that I understand it better), I would like to go back and see if any of the special features expand on the film’s premise. While I am interested in reading the book, I likely won’t be any time soon, but any knowledge would be helpful.
Gomorrah is a unique film that is unflinching in its portrayal of modern-day organized crime in Italy. Since the thread that ties all the stories together is something based in reality, it may be better to do a bit of homework on the Camorra beforehand to fully appreciate some of the finer details of Gomorrah that were no doubt lost on me.
I give it 4 shootings in a tanning salon out of 5.