On the outskirts of Naples, past the beautifully historic buildings and tourist trappings, lie the city's crumbling estates. Here the city is slowing by torn apart by the Camorra.
There are many things which the Italians do well - pasta, football, Catholicism - but most importantly, crime. The Camorra, the Mafia-esque mob at the heart of Gomorrah, isn't like the mob seen in a Martin Scorsese film or the Sopranos - there are no gentlemen's agreements and no second chances. This is primal violence of the highest degree - survival of the fittest.
After its bloody beginnings, Gomorrah veers off in five different directions, examining how this poisonous crime organization seeps into every faucet of society in Naples. We follow Don Ciro (Gianfelice Imparato), an old hand at the business, who pays off the families of mob members who are currently in jail; simple dress maker (Salvatore Cantalupo), who makes the mistake of crossing the mob and helping out their Chinese rivals; two young upstarts (Marco Macor, Toni Petroni) who think they're the next Tony Montana; 13 year old Toto (Salvatore Abruzzese) who falls in with one of the criminal gangs; and Roberto (Carmine Paternoster), a graduate who becomes disillusioned with this new job of managing illegal toxic waster. The entire cast, some of which are new to the acting world, all give sterling performances, especially so the youngsters.
With a few artistic tweaks to the original story, Gomorrah could have easily been made into a `different lives slowly coming together' film in the same vein of Crash or Magnolia. But the Camorra is different. They've fingers in every pie, and their corruption and influence have seeped their way into every area of life in Naples - young to old, rich to poor, white to black, no-one escapes the clutches of the Camorra.
Gomorrah doesn't end with any big set piece and not all the loose ends are tied up. This only serves to show that these are just five individual stories; a snapshot of a city which finds itself unable to rid itself of the Camorra - they can't live with it and they can't live without it.
As the film draws to a close though, the reality of life with the Camorra comes to bear: they have murdered 4,000 people in the last thirty years (more deaths than caused by the IRA or ETA); one clan's daily earnings from drugs are estimated at 500,000 euros; most of their operations are completely legal, including a share in the reconstruction of Ground Zero in New York; they have members in every social class, from doctors to grocery store owners; and they have a monopoly on toxic waste in Italy. Although it'll leave a grim taste in the mouth, staying for these details simply brings home the fact that the last two hours and 17 minutes have been as close to the real Italian mob as any film as going to get.
A bleak view of a broken city, which is both an entirely compelling, but extremely difficult watch.