A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
It is all so sordid. "Gomorrah" is a film about Italian criminals killing one another. One death after another. Remorseless. Strictly business. The question arises: How are there enough survivors to carry on the business? Another question: Why do willing recruits submit themselves to this dismal regime?
The film is a curative for the romanticism of "The Godfather" and "Scarface." The characters are the foot soldiers of the Camorra, the crime syndicate based in Naples that is larger than the Mafia but less known. Its revenues in one year are said to be as much as $250 billion -- five times as much as Bernard Madoff took years to steal. The final shot suggests that the Camorra is invested in the rebuilding of the World Trade Center. The film is based on fact, not fiction.
"Gomorrah," which won the grand prize at Cannes 2008 and the European Film Award, is an enormous hit in Europe. It sold 500,000 tickets in France, which at $10 a pop makes it a blockbuster. There was astonishment that the Academy Awards passed it over for foreign film consideration. I'm not so surprised. The academy more often goes for films that look good and provide people we can care about. "Gomorrah" looks grimy and sullen, and has no heroes, only victims.
That is its power. Here is a film about the day laborers of crime. Somewhere above them are the creatures of the $250 billion, so rich, so grand, so distant, with no apparent connection to crime. No doubt New York and federal officials sat down to cordial meals with Camorra members while deciding the World Trade contracts, and were none the wiser.