Gomorrah ★★★★

"Gomorrah", which is based on Roberto Saviano’s book of the same name, comprises five narrative strands that have one thing in common: the Camorra, a Mafia-like criminal organization originating in Naples, Italy. Unlike many other Mob movies, however, this film is depressingly realistic and does not in any way glamorize the organized-crime life. The overarching purpose of the film is to give a glimpse of how the activities of the Camorra affect people’s lives.

Unsurprisingly, the narrative feels disjointed, and keeping track of all the characters and how things are connected requires some effort on the viewer’s part. Additionally, an immediate emotional investment in the film and its characters is made difficult by the somewhat distanced storytelling. Perhaps these factors explain why "Gomorrah" is one of those films that grow on the viewer during post-movie reflection.

Director and co-screenwriter Matteo Garrone keeps things interesting throughout the slow-paced movie’s 137-minute running time. The brutal violence, which never feels exploitative, comes rather unexpectedly, making it all the more shocking.

The documentary style works well here, and there is never any doubt that what the film depicts actually happens in real life. Unfortunately, the shallow depth of field in some scenes draws attention to itself in a distracting way.

The ensemble cast is quite impressive. Marco Macor (Marco), Ciro Petrone (Ciro)—a memorable and poignant sequence shows the two young gangster wannabes firing guns on a beach, seemingly oblivious of the very dangerous game they are playing—and Salvatore Abruzzese (Totò) deliver the most noteworthy performances. Very good acting also by Salvatore Cantalupo in the role of Pasquale.