Don Ciro (Gianfelice Imparato) is "il sottomarino" who pays the families of the prisoners that are affiliated with his powerful criminal clan. When the clan begins to crumble, he doesn't know who wields the power any more. Totò (Salvatore Abruzzese), is 13 years old and keen to grow up; he begins his training in the school of life, until one day he has to make an irreversible decision. Marco (Marco Macor) and Ciro (Ciro Petrone) think they are living in a Brian de Palma film, but in the eyes of the 'system' their acts of silly bravado are disturbing business. Roberto (Carmine Paternoster) is looking for work. Franco (Toni Servillo) offers him a job in toxic waste management, but the ghastly reality of the task is too disconcerting for Roberto's conscience. Pasquale (Salvatore Cantalupo) is a tailor who works surreptitiously for a small enterprise subcontracted by the haute couture industry. When Chinese competitors come to him wanting to learn the tricks of the trade, he is seduced into agreeing - but his actions put his life in grave danger.
Review by Louise Keller:
Director Matteo Garrone, as well as Roberto Saviano, the author from whose novel this smoking gun cinema was adapted, is one of the six screenwriters credited. He has pieced together an extraordinary film which in many ways feels like a documentary: a mosaic of explosive raw footage that pieced together knits a profoundly disturbing portrait of organised crime in Italy today. The fact that Saviano has been living under police protection since 2006 has been well documented, so we know that what we are seeing on screen is not far from reality. It's a chilling experience, to sit comfortably in our chairs watching the ugliness that human nature can dish out. There is no Hollywood gloss, or international stars involved in the project. Just a sense of gritty realism that pierces through a bullet proof vest, should we be fortunate enough to be wearing one.
The film begins with violence - bloody murders while having manicures and working on a suntan in the solarium. That is before the opening credits. Then it is time to concentrate because we meet a lot of different characters. There are the two teenage boys acting out the dialogue from Scarface before finding a stash of weaponry; two men are bidding for a contract in haute couture; a young boy who can't wait to grow up becomes a drug courier; a contract for waste disposal is put to the bidding. Drugs distribution has always been high on the list of organised crime activities, but seemingly innocent everyday industries including textiles, supermarkets, construction and banking launder the proceeds from illegal activities. Just as in South Africa, children are recruited for the militia, so too are children in Italy, who see things no child should see, and are sucked into the system with no mercy.
Anyone interested in the state of the world, human nature or in the topic will be riveted by this too true piece of cinema that defies you to look away. One minute we are watching a tailor instructing a workshop of 80 Chinese factory workers being ferried in and out in the boot of a car. We witness gun-happy teenagers on a shooting spree. The next minute we see a young boy betray his own mother to devastating consequences. This is not and cannot be pretty cinema. But it makes the hairs on your neck stand up, and sadly it cannot be dismissed as Hollywood frivolity.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The title Gomorra is a play on the name of the ill-fated, decadent and lawless city of the bible and the Italian word, Camorra, meaning 'system', and the label by which the Naples-based criminal organisation - said to be bigger and more powerful than Sicily's Mafia - has become known.
But it's not the obvious violence of the usual genre about organized crime but the daily banality of corruption and amorality that weighs down the lives of the people under the grip of the Camorra. Within the 'system' are competing gangs or clans, not just fighting for turf but for influence and control of the cash that flows like effluent through the regions. Daily sales of 500,000 Euros worth of drugs for example....
Unlike most crime movies, there isn't a goodie and a baddie - or even teams of them. The film's five story strands are extracted in Matteo Garrone's adaptation of the book by Italian journalist and author Roberto Saviano, who remains under permanent police protection after receiving death threats from the Camorra for exposing their activities in his 2006 book.
The film's veracity is thus authenticated in a dramatic fashion and his book is often referred to as an exposé. Garrone approached Saviano after reading his book, and the pair collaborated on the screenplay.
At its world premiere at Cannes in 2008, Gomorra won the Grand Prix and went on to collect a number of other awards and nominations. It is set in the province of Naples and Caserta, whose residents confront the 'system' every day in matters large and small. In the film, directed by Garrone, five fictional stories are woven together, each rooted in brutal reality.
The authenticity of the material is strikingly captured by Garrone and his amazing cast, and it's not what we expect. The silken web of deceit, corruption, fear and greed is carefully built to capture the essence of the oozing poison that is generated by such endemic corruption at every stage. And the violence is abrupt, deadly and sparse. There is no glory or romance in it. This film is not about the bosses; it's about the badly dressed foot soldiers and their captains, and about the youngsters who are seduced by the romantic versions of crime they see on the screen. Special mention to Brian de Palma's Scarface..
The sinewy production could almost pass for documentary - if only doco makers could get such amazing access. But that's why the film has been hailed as groundbreaking. It is also heartbreaking.
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THE SYSTEM ALWAYS WINS
By Andrew L. Urban
CAST: Salvatore Abruzzese, Simone Sacchettino, Salvatore Ruocco, Vincenzo Fabricino, Vincenzo Altamura, Italo Renda, Gianfelice Imparato, Maria Nazionale, Salvatore Striano, Carlo Del Sorbo, Vincenzo Bombolo, Toni Servillo, Carmine Paternoster, Alfonso Santagata, Marco Macor, Ciro Petrone, Salvatore Cantalupo
PRODUCER: Domenico Procacci
DIRECTOR: Matteo Garrone
SCRIPT: Matteo Garrone, Maurizzio Braucci, Ugo Chiti, Gianni di Gregorio, Massimo Gaudioso, Roberto Saviano (book by Roberto Saviano)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Marco Onorato
EDITOR: Marco Spoletini
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Paolo Bonfini
RUNNING TIME: 137 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 14, 2009