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Released: 2008

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 2 hr 17 min

MPAA Rating: NR

Director: Matteo Garrone

Starring: Nicoló Manta, Gianfelice Imparato

Epic crime film deals with the Camorra crime syndicate in Naples and Caserta.

Fascinating and utterly believable.

Review by: MiamiMovieCritic

Added: 7 years ago

Gomorrah, the highly acclaimed modern gangster film by Italian filmmaker Mateo Garrone, is fascinating and utterly believable… but it’s also a touch bit overrated. This feels more like a piece of documentary journalism than an epic crime saga. The DVD cover box quotes one critic who called it the greatest mafia movie ever. As if.

One problem with the film is that it lacks context. Most viewers who don’t know anything about the Camorra going in will be completely lost. Only until the end credits do we really understand how powerful the crime syndicate truly is. (Its members invested in the 9/11 memorial fund.) So the scenes of gangsters visiting sewing factories and collecting payments may come across as somewhat arbitrary to some audiences. This is a film for Italian audiences with limited crossover appeal.

My biggest complaint is that I had to rent the DVD at Blockbuster. That’s because IFC Films, which is distributing Gomorrah, cut a deal with Blockbuster to make all of its titles “Blockbuster Exclusives.” That means it’s not available on Netflix or anywhere else. Indie distributors are on the chopping block, so IFC was probably forced to do this to survive. Still, it’s unfortunate. IFC distributes a lot of great movies each year (Hunger, Summer Hours, Antichrist – just this year alone!), and more often than not those movies open in select cities – which means most people have to wait for the DVD to come out. (Speaking of Antichrist: How is Blockbuster going to handle the release of that unrated, highly graphic film? What’s the point of watching an R-rated Blockbuster DVD of Antichrist anyway?) To limit both the theatrical release AND the DVD release seems completely unfair.

Anyway, as I was about to say before I got off on a rant, Gomorrah is a finely crafted gangster film. It often doesn’t feel like a movie, and I think that’s one of its virtues. The first hour has an everyday feel to it, but many scenes at the end are interrupted by shocking, sudden acts of violence. We’ve heard references in other movies and TV shows (like The Godfather and The Sopranos) of crime families “being at war,” but Gomorrah is really the first non-documentary film to give us a good idea of what that would look like. The violence in this film is utterly meaningless and unforgiving.

Technically, the film can’t be overpraised. I’m reminded of the handheld immediacy of Amores Perros, the first film by Alejandro González Iñárritu. All of the actors are superb, and I was particularly moved by the scenes with the younger actors: Salvatore Abruzzese as Totò, the grocery delivery boy who’s forced to make a decision no 13-year-old should ever have to make; and Marco Macor and Ciro Petrone as Marco and Ciro, who, as mindless as they are, don’t deserve what’s coming to them.