J.D. Lafrance
Gomorrah: Criterion Collection DVD Review

Gomorrah: Criterion Collection

November 30, 2009

Director: Matteo Garrone,
Starring: Toni Servillo, Gianfelice Imparato, Maria Nazionale, Salvatore Abruzzese, Marco Macor, Ciro Petrone,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

Gomorrah (2008) started off as a controversial best-seller, a “nonfiction novel” by Roberto Saviano in 2006. It exposed and showed how the Camorra, Italy’s largest organized crime syndicate, worked. Based in Naples, it deals in drugs, weapons, construction and so on. However, Saviano’s reward has been living under police protection since October 2006 because of death threats from the mafia. Matteo Garrone took on the daunting task of adapting the book into a film and has created a gritty, explosive work that has received its own share or accolades.

Gomorrah is comprised of several storylines. Ciro (Petrone) and Marco (Macor) are two small-time crooks obsessed with Tony Montana from Scarface (1983) and who foolishly rip off some drug dealers and then graduate to stealing a bunch of guns, which pisses off the neighbourhood mob boss. There are the trials and tribulations of high-fashion tailor Pasquale who puts his life in danger in order to get ahead in the business. Toto (Abruzzese) is a scrawny street kid trying to get in with the local mob guys. Franco (Servillo) is a well-dressed toxic waste management specialist at odds with his young protégé, Roberto.

Garrone does an excellent job juggling these various storylines and characters with the sights and sounds of Naples as the backdrop. The film shows the harsh world of the mafia, like when Toto is initiated into the mob by wearing a crude bulletproof vest and is shot in the chest. Gomorrah shows how it all works, from the street thug to the man who deals in waste management with the bottom line being that life is worth very little. It is survival of the fittest and this is no more true than on the street where local punks are a dime a dozen.

Gomorrah is closer in spirit to Mean Streets (1973) than The Godfather (1972) in that it deals with low level gangsters living and dying on the streets. Garrone’s film shows the motivations of some of these characters. Some get involved with the mob out of desperation, out of stupidity, or greed – sometimes it’s a combination of factors. Little kids are forced to grow up too fast and deal with life and death on a daily basis. Gomorrah captures it all with brutal clarity in the best tradition of Italian Neo-Realism.

Special Features:

The first disc features a trailer for the film.

The second disc contains the rest of the extras, starting off with “Gomorrah: Five Short Stories,” an hour-long documentary on the making of the film. Broken down into each of the five storylines, we are presented with a mix of clips from the film and behind-the-scenes footage showing the filming of a specific scene.

There is an interview with director Matteo Garrone. He was fascinated with how the book differed from typical mafia stories and wanted to do something equally different with the film. He chose five stories out of the many in the book to put in the film and was interested in showing the blend of good and evil and how complicated things are. They actually shot on the streets of Naples in gang-controlled areas and wore passes so that the local mafia knew who they were.

Also included is an interview with actor Toni Servillo who plays Franco in the film. He knew the director since he was a kid and was interested in theatre and film. Naturally, Servillo talks about his character in the film and his impressions of the script.

“Actors” features cast members Servillo, Gianfelice Imparato and Salvatore Cantalupo being interviewed about the film and their characters.

There is also an interview with the book’s author Roberto Saviano. He talks about crime in Naples and his first-hand impressions of it. He also speaks about how a mafia clan works and examines various aspects of it.

Finally, there are six deleted scenes from the various storylines that give slightly more insight into the main characters.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


Rating: 91%

Website: http://www.criterion.com/films/1590


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