Gomorrah (2008)


Our Weekly Entertainment Dispatch

The mafia-movie-to-end-all-mafia movies

Gomorrah (2008) 

Beginning with The Godfather (1972), America has had a love affair with movies about the Italian mafia.  But Francis Ford Coppola’s classic, based on the Mario Puzo book of the same name, captures much more than the life of an organized crime family – which explains why it is routinely voted one of the best films ever made. 

The Godfather films gave birth to an entire cinematic genre, from the grittier-but-no-less compelling Scorcese movies to a legion of lesser efforts.  What’s resulted is a mythology around the mafia that previously never existed, certainly never on film; before Vito Corleone, it was instead mooks like Lee J. Cobb in On The Waterfront and Edward G. Robinson in Key Largo and Little Caesar

Why all this background?  To blow it up.

Gomorrah (2008) is an Italian-made movie about the original article – the mafia as it exists at ground-level in Naples, Italy.  Set mostly in a grimy, drug-ridden apartment complex and stripped of intrigue and Borgia maneuvering, it’s an unforgettable lens into people who turn to crime because crime is what surrounds them; the local mafiosi are far more present in their lives than the police or government.


The title is a play on the term for the Neapolitan mafia, known as the “Camorra,” and is meant to invoke a biblical level of despair.  It is apt.  The streetscapes of Gomorrah are bleak and colorless; the violence is ugly; and there is pretty much no one to root for.

So why, then, watch?  Because like The WireGomorrah has the fascination of the real thing.  One of the reasons American mafia movies spiked in popularity was the end of the era of the western; the frontier was far in our past and our “outlaws” were in our increasingly decrepit cities (sound familiar?).  Gomorrah rips the romance of those outlaws to shreds, and it has the impact of witnessing an auto wreck in real life.  I can guarantee you’ve never seen a less glamorous movie.

But still, it fascinates.  The film shows how far the Italian mafia’s tentacles reach in Naples and beyond, and how malevolent an influence it truly is.  It’s kill-or-be-killed, as Darwinian as any jungle. As one character says nonchalantly to his best friend, after switching to a rival faction: “You’re my enemy now. If I see you, I have to try to kill you.”

Part of the movie’s verisimilitude derives from the faces and attitudes of the actors, and this is no accident; reportedly, several actual Camorra members were cast, and at least four were subsequently arrested for gangster activity. 

Gomorrah is stark, arresting, fascinating, bleak, and utterly watchable (it has a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes – absurdly high for that website).  Not to be confused with the follow-on tv series of the same name, the movie is currently available as part of Amazon Prime and can be rented through all the usual venues.  (The trailer is available here).

As Marvin Gaye sang: ain’t nothing like the real thing.  Check out Gomorrah. You’ll likely agree. 


Enjoy the movie and Stay Safe!


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