Review: Gomorrah

Five storylines fragment the pounding force of Matteo Garrone's hotly anticipated adaptation of Roberto Saviano's "Gomorrah," his bestselling expose of Neapolitan crime. Utilizing a mesmerizing documentary style that studiously avoids glamorizing the horrors, Garrone cherrypicks episodes from Saviano's muckraking tract, building to a chillingly matter-of-fact crescendo of violence, though interwoven tales tend to dissipate the full force of the criminal Camorra families' insidious control. Released on 430 Italian screens amid predictions of boffo biz, "Gomorrah" will certainly make the international arthouse rounds, but auds familiar with the book will be better equipped to follow the multiple narratives.

While the Sicilian Mafia has drawn the lion's share of media attention over the years, it's the Camorra families of Naples who have really created an oligarchy of power and violence, controlling lives and entire economies not just in Italy but worldwide -- their profits are estimated at over $233 billion per year. This money comes not just from expected areas like drugs and waste disposal but high-end fashion and pirated knockoffs, whose raw materials arrive from China and are channelled exclusively through Camorra businesses.

Garrone and his five co-scripters (including Saviano) fictionalize these elements and show how the Camorra's vice-like grip on the region infects everyone, creating a permanent miasma of fear that terrorizes some while proving impossibly seductive to others. Chief among the latter are children like Toto (Salvatore Abruzzese), just 13 but eager to start on the ladder that commences with drug pushing and ends in regional control or death.

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