Friday, August 1, 2014

Before I Die #515: Gomorrah (2008)

This is the 515th film that I've seen of the 1,149 "Before You Die" lists.

Director: Matteo Garrone

A good movie, though not one that quite lived up to my lofty expectations.

Gomorrah tells three loosely connected stories of different men involved in the Camorra, the organized crime syndicate that has been thoroughly entrenched in Sicilian society for centuries. This movie received rave reviews and numerous award nominations when it was released in 2008, and it has since been placed on many a "Top Gangster Movies" list. Hence my excitement when I finally fired it up.

The movie is solid, no doubt. The gritty realism of how organized crime affects common people is reminiscent of the modern classic City of God. The primary stories follow a 14-year old boy who is just starting to flirt with involvement with the Camorra, a pair of rogue friends who try to stake their own criminal claim within the Camorra's turf, and a contractor who uses illicit methods and deals to dump illegal chemicals around the Sicilian countryside.

Two of the mavericks who seek to carve out their own niche
in the local crime scene. Their immaturity and macho joy
during these scenes is as eerie as it is telling.
What Gomorrah is missing, though, is a sense of human connection. Yes, the actions displayed are tragic enough. Any sense of empathy with the characters, though, is choked off by a lack of time to truly get into their heads. It doesn't take too long to figure out the characters' motivations: survival or power. But there are very few moments or internal conflict for any of the main characters. When there is, it is not given enough time to take hold of us viewers. And without this, the movie can often come off as a mere dramatization of what could have been a gripping documentary.

There are certainly a few tense moments that make for good cinema, and the acting and cinematography are very good. But there are other mob movies that, while perhaps not as unique in their particular foci, are simply better done.

So, 515 seen. Only 634 to go...