Gomorrah

Published: Saturday, March 28 2009 2:35 p.m. MDT

"Gomorrah" should probably take a little more time to explain itself. Even though that would make an already-long movie even longer.

But in all likelihood that would also make the film more palatable and more comprehensible to audiences outside of its country of origin, Italy. They might not be as familiar with that country's socio-political climate or with the story of the Camorra crime organization.

Those who are patient will be rewarded, however. "Gomorrah" adapts journalist Roberto Saviano's controversial book, which examined how Camorra — also known as the Neopolitan mafia — allegedly has influence in everything from the drug trade to the fashion industry to waste management.

This fictionalized version looks at several characters whose lives are heavily affected by Camorra. They include Toto (Salvatore Abruzzese), a young boy who wants to join up with one of its local arms.

He's been delivering groceries for his family's business, but sees the gangster lifestyle as being more glamorous and more profitable.

Meanwhile, recent college graduate Roberto (Carmine Paternoster), has begun working with the more experienced, mob-connected businessman Franco (Toni Servillo). He's trying to find innovative — and probably illegal — methods to dispose of toxic chemicals and waste for corporate giants.

Pasquale (Salvatore Cantalupo) is a tailor who's been sneaking out at night to teach rival Chinese factory workers how to design and assemble clothing. And Don Ciro (Granfelice Imparato), is a Camorra "bag man" (money messenger) who's wondering if his days are numbered.

Co-screenwriter/director Matteo Garrone eventually shows how these seemingly unconnected plot threads intersect. Again, you have to patient with it to get to that destination.

Solid performances by the veteran actors ensure that it's watchable — particularly that given by Cantalupo, who makes dress-pattern cutting seem interesting.

And newcomer Abruzzese is also quite good. (His scenes are among the film's most vivid and memorable.)

"Gomorrah" is not rated but would probably receive an R for strong violent action (shootings and gunplay, beatings, vehicular mayhem, and some violence against women), bloody and gory imagery, drug use and references (mostly narcotics), strong sexual language (profanity and vulgar slang terms), full female nudity, derogatory language ands slurs, and some brief sexual contact. Running time: 137 minutes.

E-mail: jeff@desnews.com

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