Wednesday, December 09, 2009
You gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women.
--Tony Montana, Scarface
The average crack dealer earns $3.30 an hour and stands a 25% chance of getting killed in a four-year period.
--Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner, Freakonomics
Two teenage boys find an arms cache of a local cell of the Camorra, or Neapolitan mob. They gleefully help themselves, then play among the ruins of a dilapidated housing project, pointing their weapons at one another and shouting, “I’m Tony Montana!” “No, I’m Tony Montana!”
Their time would have been better spent reading Levitt and Dubner.
GOMORRAH, the searing film based on the nonfiction book of the same name, takes us into the lives of the people on the lower tiers of the multi-level marketing scheme that is Italian organized crime. It does so at an interesting time, mostly due to the unintended consequences of an Italian crackdown on Camorra leaders in the Naples area. See, Naples had been at peace, its criminal factions in equilibrium. But then all the top bosses went to prison, all the politicians got reelected, and all hell broke loose. Without the bosses to impose order, Naples became a free-for-all. It was a blood-in-the-streets kind of city while ambitious young thugs slugged it out to become the new bosses. And that’s where this film comes in. GOMORRAH puts us in a world in which two cells, formerly part of a larger organization but now independent (presumably, due to the imprisonment of their common boss), fight for domination of a particularly nasty part of Naples. As is so often the case, of course, the innocents and foot soldiers do most of the dying while other men get rich.
The film weaves five storylines into a depressing, yet compelling tapestry of life in the business end of organized crime. It does so through a near-documentarian photographic style, careful casting, and smart editing that keeps us moving among stories without ever losing the thread. This is a film worth watching.