Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Movie Review: Gomorra (2008)

So many excellent portraits exist of cold-blooded, reptilian killers, and organized crime that any pretender to this crowded genre faces a tough job dancing with the stars. Gomorra, in its Neapolitan detail, succeeds.

The five main characters involved with the Camorra of Naples, have all been young at one time, passionate about something, full of dreams of some sort. And at a point they are seduced by the devil's cash, thrills, power, or approval, and take that first small decision that becomes the inescapable trajectory of one's life. The movie rolls along in Neapolitan dialect, not even vaguely understandable as Italian, in gritty, smelly streets, alleys, sweatshops, dumps, parking garages, and bars. Believable, dark-humored characters make understandable though fatal decisions and become the same doomed souls you know from Fargo, from In Cold Blood, from Goodfellas, and from The Sopranos. They are poor, often pathetic, and all trapped.

Reviewers at IMDB who have read the Robert Saviano book seem to find the movie disappointing. However, not having read the book I feel Gomorra, standing on its own as a movie, adds yet another nuance to the copious canon of organized crime movies -- a slice of Italian life that is unsentimental, gritty, and grim -- very well done. I give Gomorra 8 out of 10 stars.

Gomorra at IMDB

Movie Review: Todos Estamos Invitados

Todos Estamos Invitados is a cheesy attempt at a thriller, with hackneyed plot, characters, and storyline. Whether its Basque bad guys speaking Spanish with a gratuitous bit of Basque thrown in, or the stressed out lovers falling in the sand on the beach in San Sebastian, its pretty fake. It fails to connect with any universals that touch people who live with terrorism and nationalist sentiments. Shots of the Basque sociedades (communal kitchen/social eating clubs) and food are hunger-inducing, even if
ham-handed, but that's about all that seemed genuine in this movie. From whatever point of view whether ETA, anti-ETA, or simple moviegoer trying to appreciate a particular story that touches a human universal, this movie is a failure.

My rating: One txikitxa sessena (little bull) out of a possible ten. IMDB is kinder, but not much.