Suburra review

In contrast to the small-screen serial crime dramas for which he is best known – Romanzo Criminale, Gomorra – Stefano Sollima’s second feature film presents an epic, operatic vision of a rain-drenched Rome, slouching like a vomited-up sewer rat towards the Apocalypse. With a soaring yet unsettling score lifted from existing albums by French electronic duo M83, and some glistening, noir-ish images from cinematographer/long-time collaborator Paolo Carnera, Suburra achieves that dazzling fusion of generic material, heightened visuals and forensic social detail that characterises Michael Mann’s best early work.

suburra2016 blu ray packshotAdapted from the novel of the same name, co-written by Carlo Bonini and Giancarlo De Cantaldo, Suburra presents a bleak image of The Eternal City as a nest of criminal, political and religious vipers, all of them as venal and corrupt as one another. In November 2011 plans to develop the seedy waterfront area of Ostia into an Italian version of Las Vegas embroil religious functionaries close to the Pope himself, an ex-right-wing terrorist turned mob boss, an ambitious young Ostia hoodlum with an unpredictable junkie girlfriend, a gay socialite whose lavish parties are attended by all manner of influential people, and a violent gypsy gangster with no respect for the old ways of doing things. But the catalyst for this swirling vortex of evil is biddable politician Filippo Malgradi, played with sweaty conviction by PierFrancesco Favino. It is his sordid, drug-fuelled evening of debauchery with a naive prostitute and an underage girl that sets in motion a complicated and volatile chain of events.

On behalf of "The Families of the South" (ie, his Comorra bosses back in Naples), old school mob boss Samurai (Claudio Amandola) has invested millions of Euros and much time on brokering the potentially game-changing Ostia deal. Unfortunately his appeals for deferential respect and calm in the face of increasing police pressure fall on deaf ears, despite his having the bland, reassuring air of a building society manager. The swaggering, tattooed Number 8 (Allesandro Borghi), who inherited the Ostia turf from his father, is initially pressured into conforming; but his patience has limits. As does that of psychopathic gypsy patriarch Manfredi Anacleti (Adamo Dionisi), whose thriving drugs trade and lucrative building works contracts are jeopardised. As in the Gomorrah TV series, however, it is the loose cannons who threaten to do the most damage; so there is no way of knowing who will remain standing when the final credits roll.

In Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, Robert DeNiro’s alienated New York cab-driver predicts a purifying deluge: “Some day a real rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets.” The flood waters in Suburra are not a cleansing biblical flood; instead they threaten to engulf and drown everyone, guilty and innocent alike. Which is why the most striking and abiding image in Suburralm is that of the corrupt, crack-befuddled politician Malgradi standing naked on the balcony of his illicit hotel room, pissing into the night as the pouring rain continues to fall unabated.

EXTRAS: The only extra is a making of/behind the scenes documentary.

Nigel Floyd

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