Gomorrah

May 28th, 2009 Film, Film Reviews, Xpress

For some films there’s a wide gulf between critical acclaim and audience endurance and acceptance. Both P T Anderson’s Magnolia and Quentin Tarantino’s Hero were lauded by the film commentariat but we’ve never seen so many people walk out of halfway through.

Gomorrah is another such movie. You know it’s brilliant, worthy and important as it’s been bought to English-speaking screens by the stewardship of Martin Scorsese, and every frame tells what appears to be an entirely authentic story of grimy gangster life that could almost be called Mafia; the True Story.

There’s no Henry Hill or Don Corleone archetypes here, just impoverished kids dreaming of being Tony Montana, angry young foot soldiers calling warnings and orders across a grotty apartment complex and flabby older men who might be electrical contractors and builders except they carry guns and distribute cocaine.

It’s the sweeping, all-encompassing story of the Comorra, the Naples-based organised crime fraternity whom author Roberto Saviano shone a light on in his book of the same name. Thanks to the interest taken in it by the criminal powers that be, Saviano now lives under 24 hour security.

Gomorrah takes five intersecting stories from the book that highlight a life few of us equate with modern organised crime. Instead of Tommy guns and dapper wise guys it’s about a crooked contractor trying to bury toxic waste away from public scrutiny, a pair of skinny boys in their underwear pretending to be tough while firing automatics over a dirty canal and a sweating, nervous bag man dressed in beige as he delivers pay-offs while waiting for his luck to run out.

Gomorrah will divide audiences straight down the middle and if you can see past the cinematic worthiness you’ll realise the single quality they forgot to put in this film — interest. With such a pedigree of quality comes a stunningly boring movie. Nothing interesting happens until an hour in and your interest is only piqued every 15 minutes or so after that. Everything in between is about colourless people doing uninteresting things.

Maybe that’s Garrone’s point – when we expect brutal wackings and cool quips from the gangster genre, it’s really about long stretches of workaday boredom with sudden bursts of violence. Either way, it makes for a movie that’s equal measures dull and socially principled.


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