Gomorra is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Imagine starting a book 20 pages in, or picking up on a TV show during its second season, or coming into a conversation a few minutes late… that’s Gomorra. It’s been tried before, giving a film such a rugged authenticity that the audience has to compete to catch up, and it usually falters. However, director Matteo Garrone’s bold experiment soars cinematic wonders.
It’s true, though, trying to figure out just what the hell is going on isn’t very easy. After the film opens with a very Sopranos-friendly bang, we’re stuck right in the middle of the Italian mob underworld. But Scarface this is not. Gomorra presents the nitty gritty of a deeply unglamorous way of life.
The film plays like an extended one act film. There’s never any conflict or resolution. The characters live in a constant state of conflict and resolve what little they can as they go. There’s the simple money-man who delivers funds to widows of mob men. The middle-man boss who does the grunt work, the two vigilante kids who want to rule the world a la Tony Montana, the kid who tries not to get sucked in, and round and round.
Garrone isn’t interested in giving you backstories or explanations, he literally dumps you right in the middle of the modernly grotesque apartment structure where all the dirty deeds go down.
Once you settle in and catch up as best you can, you’re in for one hell of a wild ride. Unlike most American mob films, the violence in this Italian gem is never glamorized, even if a few of the characters try to make it look fun. Garrone understands their desire, which leads to their pathetic attempt to be gangsters.
This is a film that could benefit from multiple viewings. Knowing what to expect will eliminate some of the initial confusion. But even on the first time around, it’s impossible not to be shook.
I appreciated the film much more after I learned that it is based on a factual book written by a man who got as close as he could to the real Gomorra, took a lot of notes, and got the hell out of town. After he published the book, the Gomorra put a price on his head, which still remains. I hope he’s careful, or he may end up in the bucket of a bulldozer, riding off into the sunset. A