Pub date February 24, 2009
WriterCheryl Eddy
SectionFilm FeaturesSectionFilm Review

REVIEW In the giant, rundown apartment buildings of Naples and Caserta, organized crime doesn’t run afoul of the law — it is the law. Based on the best seller of the same name by Roberto Saviano (who co-scripted), Matteo Garrone’s Gomorrah has already hauled in European laurels galore, including the Grand Prize at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival. Inexplicably not nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar (not uplifting enough? too violent?) or any Oscar for that matter (see: 2002’s City of God), this multicharacter drama examines the Camorra crime family from the ground up, zeroing in on personal stories to show how gangsters have their paws in everything from street-level drug dealing to toxic waste dumping to Italy’s famed haute couture biz. It’s a long movie, dense with characters and subplots, but standout moments shine above the desperation and grit: after an initiation ritual, baby-faced teenager Totò proudly rubs a gunshot-sized bruise on his chest, sustained through a bulletproof vest; cackling at the joy of finding a weapons cache, a pair of ne’er-do-well Scarface fans scamper in their skivvies; an educated young man realizes his lofty job is actually exploiting children, not to mention poisoning the environment. Filming in the Camorra’s actual stomping grounds, Garrone realistically replicates a world where everyone is in cahoots with the bad guys — whether they choose to be or not.

GOMORRAH opens Fri/27 in Bay Area theaters.