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  Suburra Gangster's Paradise
Year: 2015
Director: Stefano Sollima
Stars: Pierfrancesco Favino, Greta Scarano, Jean-Hugues Anglade, Elio Germano, Giulia Gorietti, Alessandro Borghi, Claudio Amendola, Lidia Vitale, Yulia Kolomiets, Marco Quaglia, Adamo Dionisi, Paolo Maria Scalondro, Antonello Fassari, Giacomo Ferrara, Michele B
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: November 5th 2011, and there are seven days till the apocalypse. The place is Rome and its environs, where there has been planned a new waterfront complex that should bring a lot of money to the area, or at least a lot of money to the gangsters who run it whose various factions have set aside their differences to cash in on the wealth that should be coming their way. They just need to pull a few strings they have at their disposal in various political and religious arenas and they should be sorted, though there are others who need persuading, and to these men that can mean sending a heavy round to burn down a business that was in the way and smash the kneecaps of the owner with a sledgehammer...

Yes, life was extremely violent for the characters in Suburra, one of director Stefano Sollima's crime dramas that had been met with great success not only at home but internationally as well: this big screen effort was turned into a television series, as had been the basis of his other work, making him the go-to guy for long, revealing, unforgiving looks at the state of corruption in his homeland. This exhibited all his strengths, with its complex plot not so overinvolved that it became impenetrable, carefully detailed characters fleshed out by well-guided performances, and a slick look and sound that spoke to the sheen of the contemporary music video yet was reluctant to stay in that largely superficial realm for the duration.

This time around there were tracks from French electro-band M83's album Hurry Up We're Dreaming, which had already demonstrated their cinematic potential with a series of fantastical, storytelling videos, yet here did not look out of place in an alternative milieu, even if the use of them for nightclub sequences verged on the over-obvious. It was tempting when a movie looked this good to simply drink in the visuals, and you could very easily let the deeper implications of what Sollima was telling us about his society wash over you as you appreciated what perhaps was little new for the genre, not to mention not exactly dramatic new territory for the man at the helm, with many scenes shot at night and in the pouring rain for extra atmosphere.

But there was a point here, and it was more or less to highlight how far the tentacles of crime had made their way into Italian life to the extent that they were the normal state of affairs for every aspect of how the authorities went about their business. There was an underlying despair that nothing anyone could do could stop this anymore, and when the main players misbehaved, which was often, that they had no punishment coming to them, never mind any waking up to the fact this was no way to run anything when, to be blunt, violence was the ultimate fate awaiting pretty much all of them, whether on the receiving end or doling it out. Take the politician (Pierfrancesco Favino) who five minutes after his introduction is having a drug-fuelled threesome with two prostitutes, one of whom is underage and soon to be very dead.

This, the film was stating, was the sort of leader we had in our country, a man who has taken self-interest to the stage that he will do anything for his own pleasure, and when that causes trouble will debase his office by taking bribes when it suits. These are the people the gangsters (Mafia and Romany here) rely upon to get their way, and nobody is standing up to them aside from the occasional rogue element: they even have the Catholic Church under their thumb in a mutually beneficial relationship. By all rights watching this unfold should have been soul destroying, but Sollima preferred to use the language of thrillers to keep us engrossed, so if there are no real characters you are cheering on, you are interested in the manner in which their tales will develop. Nevertheless, the conclusion that those who have genuine power in this world are the ones who behave with absolute moral bankruptcy, and if you are in any way kind or decent you will be trampled under their feet, was sobering. Another downside was that Sollima seemed to be holding back at the end for his forthcoming TV series, so not everything was wrapped up, but you got the idea.

[Kaleidoscope's Blu-ray looks and sounds appropriately sleek, and has the trailer and a bite-sized featurette as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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