Gomorrah, Matteo Garrone's unblinking look into the devastated Italian provinces where the Comorra crime syndicate does its dirty work, is like a mobster-movie pizza pie, undercooked and crudely sawn into half a dozen uneven, indigestible slices of life that don't offer its hungry customers much to chew on besides the fearful, depressing contemplation of corrupt moral and economic systems. Its dismembered bits of plot are mixed indiscriminately as part of a puzzling plan to deny its audience the passé pleasures of narrative, character identification, and food for thought.
The word film critics most often invoke to separate Gomorrah from other crime films is "unglamorous," as if the moviegoing public were a moronic gang of Tony Montana wannabes who needed scolding for its gangster dreams. But whether that word is meant to chasten ticket-buyers or simply signal a larger failure of critical imagination, it's not inaccurate: To employ the term "mobster" at any point in the movie would confer a false spats-and-pinstripes elegance on the stuffed-sausage Cro-Magnons who periodically emerge from Gomorrah's depths and trundle around in sandals, track suits, and wife-beaters, with guns tucked into their pants like hammers or scythes.
The film's rub-your-nose-in-it ugliness extends beyond the characters, seeping into the landscape. Garrone shoots Naples as though it's an abandoned archaeological site, and the beauty of the Italian countryside is ignored.
Instead, most of the action takes place in and around the universal-slum skylines of overcrowded housing developments and half-completed construction sites. And the nervous hand-held camerawork provides additional irony, as it darts and bobs about its subjects, seeking some new or fresh angle from which to view the unfair transactions and displays of brute force as thoughtless and regular as a ritual animal slaughter.
Opens Friday, April 24th, at Studio on the Square