Last Updated: March 29, 2013By Tags:

(BY ALI NADERZAD) A man steps inside a tanning bed and slips his hands into straps, facing us. He stands, naked, as the silver-blue lights behind him flicker and the machine whirs to life. Moments later, someone steps inside the booth and shoot him in the head. The opening scene of Gomorra, by italian director Matteo Garrone, is a memorable one. Clocking in at well over two hours, Gomorra casts a compelling glance about gangsters and their families living and plying their trade in an apartment building in Casal di Principe, a suburb of Naples which also happens to be the heart of the Italian camorra. The film was adapted from a book by Roberto Saviano which was a best-seller in Italy. Garrone follows the lives of five Neapolitans, from the kid who dreams of becoming an adult fast to the accountant for one of the families whose only desire is to stay alive and the two teenagers who believe they’re in the movie Scarface. You’re never bored with Gomorra, even though Garrone doesn’t quite let you get attached to any of the characters and it’s probably justified. They’re all going to die, eventually, so why get attached? Am I being too dramatic? As any neighborhood under siege, there are those who choose to stay out of criminal activities and those who partake freely in them. Turf wars, alliances and betrayals help punctuate Garrone’s documentation of daily life amidst this ruined city block. But this is not a documentary, do not be fooled. It’s a grand feature film in which man’s dalliance with crime propel us towards a dramatic finish. And although the end of Gomorrha can be forecast easily, this highly watchable film is anything but predictable. It’s also a character study asking us to look forgivingly, perhaps, at other men’s unfortunate lot. The impossible turf wars which take place are entertaining although the adversaries here are unequal. In one scene so often replayed in movies of this genre, a long-time turf don dada hears news from his lieutenant about a couple of kids who stole from an arms cache. A meeting is convened and the boys’ fate is decided with little opposition. Just like that. With this new film Matteo Garrone isn’t reinventing the wheel but his Gomorrha shimmers with brio.