Starring: Pierfrancesco Favino, Greta Scarano, Alessandro Borghi, Claudio Amendola, Adamo Dionisi, Yulia Kolomiets
Director: Stefano Sollima
Given the thousands of miles of film stock Hollywood has dragged out of the Mafia world, it’s surprising (or maybe not, Italian film directors have retirement plans after all) that so few native Italian films have touched on this fascinatingly brutal world of money, drugs and family. Suburra attempts to redress the balance a little with a wonderful Godfather-length tale of corruption and personal vendettas.
After an under-aged prostitute dies from a drug overdose in his room during an evening at a plush hotel with another high class hooker Jelena (Kolomiets), government minister Filippo Malgradi brings in his connections in Rome’s underground to cover up his career threatening crisis. He suddenly becomes inadvertently absorbed in a cartel war to bring a law to pass allowing the waterfront of Rome to become the Las Vegas of Italy, all while his government are falling apart around him. As favours turn to blackmail turn to mafia hits, he quickly realises he is way out of his depth and attempts to convince an independent mafia-advisor known only as the Samurai to protect him. Unbeknown to him, the Samurai has his own agenda and it only suffices to entangle his further into the web of Mafia intentions.
It does initially feel like there are too many strings to Suburra’s narrative bow, and that the writers are attempting to over-egg the plot-pie a little. No less than five different storylines are simultaneously being teased out and as a whole it can start to feel a little overwhelming. As time passes however, each story is gently and cunningly weaved into one another until by the end a single line of plot exists, perfectly combining each characters second and third generation relationships with each other.
It’s difficult to pinpoint one particular actor for praise as everyone puts in such wonderful performances. Amendola’s Samurai is the perfect example of a cool, calculated underground gangster. Borghi’s ‘Numero 8’ is much more rounded, his annoyance at his dead father’s submission to the bigger families has left him with a chip on his shoulder which combines with a fierce temper to get him constantly in the crosshair of an assassin’s rifle. Conversely his relationship with his drug-addicted girlfriend Viola (Scarano) is sweet, and the level of protection he provides her gives him a real depth. Scarano is excellent too, developing her character well and showing true quality in switching between her clean and high scenes. Head of the local Gyspy family Manfredi Anacleti (Dionisi) is the films Joe Pesci, an utterly uncompromising element of terror and cruelty, and each scene he graces is filled with an exhilarating uncertainty.
Suburra rewards patience. An excellently cerebral dark political gangster movie augmented with fabulous performances throughout and a pacey script which bounds along its relatively lengthy running time. An English language film of this calibre would be blitzing the awards season next year without a doubt.
8 / 10