Matteo Garrone | 2008 | 135 min | Italy
The Gomorrah are one of Italy's largest crime organizations, but until now, nobody has dared make a film about them. If they're really as dangerous as that suggests, I'm not quite sure why the makers of Gomorrah decided to use them as the subjects of their film. There is rarely mention of its characters' names, so it could just as well have been any crime organization. That said, Gomorrah is a near masterpiece.
The film bounces back and forth between different members of the Gomorrah without much connecting the characters (with some exceptions) or concern for plot. It's a day-in-the-life-of-mobsters style script that covers territory I've never seen in a gangster film before. Among the most interesting is the production of garments as a source of income, waste disposal, and an apartment project that's inhabited solely by members of the clan.
Taking its time to follow characters like a garment maker, a money delivery man, a young boy just getting his feet wet in the organization, a pair of men responsible for landfilling toxic waste, and a couple of ignorantly cocksure teenagers, Gomorrah paints one of the most complete and compelling portraits of mob life to be put on film. Everything is presented so matter of factly and without judgment. The film's best performances are by its confident teens who have aspirations of taking over. They're so good that they seem like actual stupid teenagers who want to be big time gangsters, that the filmmakers have given guns to and have encouraged to be as reckless as possible while they film it. They're beyond compelling. The acting in Gomorrah is all for the most part, extremely natural and believable. A very rare thing for a gangster film.
After ninety or so minutes of brilliantly executed character observation, Garonne decides to take the typical gangster film route and give each character a violent denouement that undoes a lot of what is special about the film that precedes it. Regardless, Gomorrah is an incredible film and will hopefully be recognized with time as one of the best gangster films ever made.