This district of Naples is in the grip of the Mafia, known there as Camorra, an organisation that has fingers in many pies, both in Italy and internationally. Here are some of the people who live there and have either been drawn into the criminal fraternity, or have been forced to do so against their will; young Toto (Salvatore Abruzzese) is one of those who are attracted by the status being a gangster can bring, and is eager to join their ranks. The far older Don Ciro (Gianfelice Imparato) has been part of the Camorra at the lowest level for decades and he wants out, for there is a war coming...
They are not the only characters who populate Gomorrah, a multi-strand adaptation of Roberto Saviano's book that operated as an exposé of the Mafia in Naples, and ended up with him living under police protection for the forseeable future as the gangsters were none too pleased with their businesses and daily lives being placed under such a critical microscope. Saviano was one of many who contributed to the screenplay of Matteo Garrone's film version, and it was true that the whole story, or stories, had the ring of authenticity backed up by the documentary-like methods the director handled it with.
However, it may have garnered favourable responses in many quarters, but it seemed just as many were wont to find it confusing and uninvolving, marking a division; the truth was perhaps somewhere in the middle. If you were willing to pay attention, and Garrone was not prepared to spoonfeed the audience the various plot points which many could have found alienating, then it was perfectly possible to follow what was going on and who was doing what to whom, it was just that there was a monotony to the action which basically saw each of the people we tracked get in over their heads and paying the price before the end credits rolled.
Some of these characters were more intelligent than others, yet the sheer brute force of the Mafia bulldozes everything in its path, and any noble intentions are effectively demolished. Take Pasquale (Salvatore Cantalupo), a fashion designer and garment manufacturer who takes his trade to the Chinese immigrants to save money and ensure higher quality. He's not a stupid man, except that he misjudges how willing the gangsters will be to allow him to transfer his custom elsewhere, and that mistake costs him far too much in the long run. So should he have stayed with the Camorra, knowing he was essentially in bed with murderers and thieves, or should he have taken a stand?
If Gomorrah has an answer to questions such as that, it may not be the one you're happy to hear, as the mood of crushing despair can leave the viewer dejected well before the end. On the idiotic end of the scale, two teens steal a stash of weapons from the Mafia and decide to set out on their own, but the film is under no Robin Hood illusions as these two boys are morons who like so many others fancy the idea of being a gangster but want to do it their way, as outlaws and rebels. You can guess how far their are allowed to do that. Although the life of these lawbreakers is viewed as a glamorous one to many of the characters, Garrone sees it as the opposite: morally bankrupt, corrosive, and well nigh irreparably damaging to not simply Italian society but the rest of the world as well, so established are the Mafia now. Of course, if you are in the Mafia then Gomorrah is an example of how successful you are, so someone might emerge from this feeling better (apart from the occupational hazard of being murdered, that is).