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Gomorrah – One of 2008’s most acclaimed films, Matteo Garrone’s “Gomorrah” is the kind of film which flies in the face of traditional Hollywood trips to Italian settings.  Often shown as little more than a land of scenic perfection, tasty wine and charming inhabitants who riotously yell at each other, “Gomorrah” gets into the violent and sleazy underworld of Naples, Italy.  It follows an entourage of characters through the monolithic slums and hidden corners of this place as every characters life becomes hopelessly intertwined with the Camorra crime syndicate.  A thuggish union which has dominated the region through intimidation and murder for decades, the Camorra perpetrate violent crime in all the age old ways; drug dealing, gun running, gambling and consistent, unerring murder.

“Gomorrah” is a hard hitting piece, one that demands a fair amount of respect for the honest way it tries to do business and expose this Hellish lifestyle that few outside of Italy realize exists.  But it’s its own dedication to grim realism; the experience is at first confusing, slowly involving, and ultimately an unfortunate chore.  The film introduces characters, kills them, introduces more characters, leaves them for long spells, goes back to them, so on and so forth.  It takes too long for a rhythm or pattern ever emerges between these divergent stories and characters.  The film is more than half over by the time a settled sensation of who we’re supposed to be watching and why becomes clear.  Garrone doesn’t sugarcoat anything about the destructive and inescapable way of life in which these people are trapped, but nor does he do much to make you care about their outcomes either. Many of these characters, though honest in nature, are ignorant lowlifes and beasts, “Scarface” quoting thugs who want money and power and kill and rob to get it.  The characters who do rise above the level of base animal on the morality scale seem tedious and are dealt with less effectively.  Garrone is slightly more rapt with the perpetrators of violent crime than the victims of it.

Making matters more impenetrable is the film’s dogged insistence on relaying few details about this place we’ve been dropped into.  A viewer can piece together the stories and plot with relative ease, but where this is and why were watching is a mystery only the back of a DVD case can solve.  Honestly, I only know that these stories involve the Camorra crime syndicate because the DVD case told me so.  The film seems to have been made from an insider point of view and it doesn’t wish to take the effort to catch the rest of us up with the details we could use to understand the situation.  There’s one major character that runs through the entire film, trapped in an ethical dilemma because of his job.  He comes to the slums delivering money to certain individuals, an act which angers an opposing gang that then threatens to kill him.  But why he has deliver the money to begin with, who he’s giving the money to, why he has to keep on doing it after his life is clearly in danger and why his task pisses off other thugs remains a mystery.

“Gamorrah” is a taxing and frustrating thing.  It sticks with you and it’s easy to appreciate the skill of Garrone behind the camera.  Brute and savage honesty is a rare quality in filmmakers of any nationality.  But he’s stacked the deck against himself by failing to relay enough information about the situation he wants to expose, and giving his audience no one character to care about or follow through with.  When the final bullets are fired and the last bodies of two young men slump over dead, their life wasted, instead of an empathetic sadness at the lose of unfulfilled life, your left with the distinct feeling of ‘Oh well.’

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