“Gomorra”
Fandango-IFC Films
At the Michigan

3.5 out of 5 stars

Every day, citizens of corrupted areas of the world are forced to live in environments where no event, regardless of its emotional impact, has any moral justification whatsoever. This universe is presented in a startling observational format in “Gomorra,” a riveting multiple-character study that reveals the extent to which wanton criminality is ignored by an indifferent and ethically bankrupt society.

The docudrama is set in the Campania region in Italy, one of the few remaining strongholds of the sinister real-world crime organization known as the Camorra. The organization resembles the Sicilian “Cosa Nostra” (the Mafia) in the nature of its illegal operations, but differs in its hierarchy. Rather than consisting of a tightly knit, vertically structured family, the Camorra is divided horizontally into more than 100 loosely connected factions that vie for control of the Campania region.

The deep-seated tension bred between these clans often erupts in violence that bears an inestimable toll on the economic and cultural climate of the community. Additionally, since Camorra-run regions have no government oversight, many privately contracted professions — including dairy farming, waste disposal and clothing manufacturing — are executed exclusively by the Camorra. The inefficiency with which the Camorra performs these duties has resulted in dramatically increased pollution and death rates in every region in which they have influence.

The screenplay of “Gomorra” is unstructured, consisting of five different narratives that follow the lives of individuals related to the Camorra. After the film’s opening scene, the audience is introduced to Totò (Italian newcomer Salvatore Abruzzese), a malleable young delivery boy who wishes to join the ranks of the Camorra in hopes of sharing in the organization’s wealth and power. The film then focuses on the reprehensible actions of a greedy waste disposal contractor and his reluctant associate, a tailor who defects from his Camorra-owned manufacturing job, a lowly money-carrier and two disillusioned hellions named Marco (Italian newcomer Marco Macor) and Ciro (Italian newcomer Ciro Petrone) who idolize the infamous “Tony Montana.”

“Gomorra” is unlike the typical multiple-narrative film in that its five plot threads rarely converge. Instead, the story is essentially five separate short films that share only their thematic material (namely, the treacherous actions of the Camorra) and the equally harrowing nature of their conclusions. By the movie’s end, every character has sold his soul out of greed, fear or betrayal.

The film is an exposé that brings to the foreground the cancerous effects of the Camorra in Italy. The problem is prominent when considering the dangers associated with the film’s production: Death threats were made against several people involved in the production of the film, including Roberto Saviano, the author of the book from which the film was adapted. Additionally, several of the actors featured in the film were later found to be directly involved with the Camorra.

In spite of the unadulterated authenticity of “Gomorra,” the limited character development and lack of plot convergence detract from the film’s entertainment value and consign it to the position of a fragmented, emotionally aloof docudrama.

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