Everyone is, alas, familiar with the Mafia. Tony Montana, Al Capone, the Sopranos, the Italian gang of Scorcese, Pacino, and de Niro have made Godfathers as real as our own. The Japanese Yakuza we have also vaguely heard about. Same with the Chinese triads or the Russian mafia. Far more secretive as organized crime goes is the murderous Napolitan Camorra.
Roberto Saviano, a brave young journalist, wrote the book on which this 2008 film by Matteo Garrone is based. Be warned, watching it takes a strong stomach. The killings are casual, the rotten business deals that lead to mischief matter-of-fact, and the corruption general.
Here, there is no gorgeous camera work or great acting. The wysiwyg is the mesmerizing everyday life in the doomed city of Naples with its mountains of trash, splayed bullet-ridden corpses littering corridors, the rare inhabitants still trying to have a normal life barricaded in crumbling tenements, barrels of highly toxic waste being shoved off in abandoned mineshafts, clandestine sweatshops turning out the latest haute couture fashion copies.
The only hope is for this desperate city to bite its own tail so that rot doesn’t spread beyond its walls. As testament, Gomorra sometimes uncomfortably looks like our future.