What the hell is left to say about the Mafia after The Godfather Goodfellas, and The Sopranos? You’d be surprised. Gomorrah,, arriving in the U.S. after stirring up a shit storm in Italy, is out to rip the mob a new one. Based on a bestseller by journalist Roberto Saviano, who has required police protection 24/7 since the book came out in 2006, Gomorrah examines not the biblical sin city of Gomorrah and its evil twin, Sodom, but modern Naples under the rule of the Camorra crime syndicate. What does this have to do with little old us sitting pretty in the U.S. of A? Plenty. The Camorra’s tentacles are spreading on a global scale into drugs, weapons, banking, fashion, you name it. The organization isn’t even above going legal to spruce up its image, having poured cash into the rebuilding of the World Trade Center.
So fasten your seat belts for Gomorrah, just snubbed in the wussy Oscar race for Best Foreign Film (so you know it’s dynamite). Director Matteo Garrone, who collaborated on the script with Saviano and others, takes a docudrama approach that is shockingly immediate. From the opening shootout in a tanning salon to a closing image of toxic waste that literally and figuratively spreads cancer, Gomorrah hits you like a punch in the gut. The five interlocking stories introduce us to Camorra bigwig Franco (the superb Toni Servillo) dealing in sanitation in ways that would shame Tony Soprano; tailor Pasquale (Salvatore Cantalupo) counterfeiting haute couture in sweatshops; bagman Don Ciro (Gianfelice Imparato) spreading the wealth; and Totò (Salvatore Abruzzese), a 13-year-old who gets sucked into the crime swamp before he even knows it will drown him. Two teens, Ciro (Ciro Petrone) and Marco (Marco Macor), have delved so deeply into the ethos of Scarface, starring Al Pacino and his leetle friend, that they think they’re above Camorra law. The sequence where the boys steal mob guns, strip to their skivvies and fire at will on a beach is blood-freezing. But so is all of Gomorrah. It’s brilliant filmmaking, a wake-up call that means to shake you, and does.