Gomorrah, Sky Atlantic, PREVIEW

Brutal – the lives (and architecture) of Gomorrah. Pics: Sky Atlantic

Rating: ★★★★

Sky Atlantic: starts Monday, 4 August, 9pm

Story: Brutal Neapolitan crime organisation the Camorra wage a bitter war against a rival. 

THIS PROBING look at the Neapolitan crime mob, the Camorra, is based on a revelatory and bestselling exposé by ‘vigilante journalist’ Roberto Saviano and follows a 2008 film adaptation of his book.

Gritty is an overused adjective when it comes to crime dramas, but Gomorrah has the social and economic context to pack quite a punch. It’s filmed in the grim suburb of Scampia, where mob drugs infect disintegrating 1960s housing estates and motorways cut off the area from the baroque splendour of Naples itself.

The largely unknown cast speak in a thick Neapolitan dialect and the series is a dark meditation on a dysfunctional world in which a man can have dinner and an espresso with his family, before going off to take part in a massed gun slaughter.

Marco D’Amore as Ciro

Pietro Savastano is a clan godfather who, as the action begins, sends his soldiers to teach Salvatore

Powers on the throne – Don Pietro and his wife, Imma

Conte a lesson after his drug dealing has infringed their turf. Ciro and his mentor Attilio set light to gasoline on the front door of Conte’s mother’s apartment while he’s there eating.

As retaliation follows bloodbath and further retaliation, the tensions in Don Pietro’s outfit are exposed. Ciro, played by Marco D’Amore, is unhappy at Pietro’s rash and ill-planned attack on Conte, which results in Attilio’s death.

Pietro is pleased to get the upper hand over Conte, but Ciro, an opinionated right-hand man, yearns for vengeance against their enemy.

The action scenes are shockingly convincing

Gomorrah is a 12-parter and has been a huge hit in Italy. Much of it is filmed verité-style on dark streets by Stefano Sollima, who also made the hit series Romanzo Criminale, and the action scenes –
such as the bomb thrown into a cafe – are shockingly convincing.

Ciro and Genny

The contrasts between the private family men and their brutality to outsiders, between the vast drug wealth and the squalor of Scampia, between the vulgar bad-taste mansion of Pietro and the desperation of his underlings are constantly absorbing.

This Sky Italia production is a cut above most crime dramas around at the moment, and will linger in your thoughts for some time.

Cast: Marco D’Amore Ciro Di Marzio, Fortunato Cerlino Pietro Savastano, Maria Pia Calzone Imma Savastano, Salvatore Esposito Genny Savastano, Marco Palvetti Salvatore Conte, Domenico Balsamo Massimo, Elena Starace Noemi, Antonio Milo Attilio O’Trovatello, Mimmo Esposito Renato Bolletta

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Sky Atlantic’s Gomorrah is a big hit in Italy

GANG DRAMAS have ruled in recent years. There’s been Peaky Blinders on the Beeb, Mob City on Fox and before that the landmark HBO bruisers The Sopranos and The Wire.

But the Italian drama Gomorrah, based on Roberto Saviano’s 2006 non-fiction book about the Naples underworld (which was also spun off into the 2008 movie by Matteo Garrone), could be one of the most interesting – and hard-hitting – yet.

It’s been a big draw on Sky Italia, where it finished its run earlier this month, and it’s been sold to 50-odd countries, with Sky Atlantic, the Italian network’s sister channel, nabbing it for the UK.

Much of its power is obviously down it being based on real events, filmed in the rougher parts of Naples, and its gritty tone.

Gomorrah‘s killers, dealers and corrupt politicians

Stefano Sollima, who also made the hit series Romanzo Criminale, is responsible for the series’
art direction and directed some episodes. He’s expert at giving his dramas a vérité feel.

Gomorrah, a 12-parter, carries a pungent tang of violence and cynicism as it retells the story of rival factions of the Camorra, the Naples mafia, in the grotty suburb of Scampia 10 years ago. Killers, drug dealers and bent politicians are its dramatis personae. Marco D’Amore plays Ciro, pushy right-hand man of the clan’s godfather, who grabs power when the boss is imprisoned.

The shoot was complicated, involving long negotiations with community activists – but no deals, the makers say, with local mobsters. Scampia is a world away from the fading baroque splendour of Naples, a zone of alienating motorways and crumbling 1960s housing estates.

The greatest Italian crime series is:

Inspector Montalbano? Inspector De Luca? Young Montalbano? Romanzo Criminale?

Tell us your opinion in the comment box below… 

The authenticity included having the largely unknown local cast of actors speaking in thick Neapolitan dialect, which other Italians struggle to make sense of, but which paid off, in that the series was still a ratings success.

Sky Atlantic is certainly delighted to have it. Julia Barry, Channel Director, says, ‘Following on the success of Sky Atlantic’s first bi-lingual drama The Tunnel, we’re thrilled to announce the acquisition of the channel’s first foreign language series. With cinematic scale and a gripping tale of conflict, loyalty and power, Gomorrah is a perfect addition to Sky Atlantic.’

Gomorrah will hit Sky Atlantic in August.

Also check out…

Stefano Sollima talks about Romanzo Criminale
Hollywood Reporter on Gomorrah
Romanzo Criminale — Killer 50

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Romanzo Criminale — Killer TV No.42

Sky Cinema 1 (Italy), 2008-2010

‘I want to die like a pharaoh, buried in gold.’ – Dandi
Francesco Montanari, Vinicio Marchioni, Alessandro Roja, Marco Bocci, Daniela Virgilio, Andrea Sartoretti
Identikit: Based on true events, the series follows the Banda della Magliana, a gang in Rome that tried to emulate the criminal dominance of the Mafia and Camorra in Sicily and Naples during the 70s and 80s.
Big, ambitious series recounting an intriguing period in modern Rome – the strife-torn years of conspiracy and criminality of the 1970s. Forget the twee staples of UK crime shows such as Lewis and Midsomer Murders. Romanzo Criminale is a crime drama con brio. The hirsute, big-lapel styles of the time are merged brilliantly with verite-style action sequences to tell the true story of a gang from Rome’s Magliana district – Banda della Magliana – run by old friends going by the names of Lebanese, Dandi and Freddo, who set out to become the city’s top criminal outfit by running the local heroin trade. Ranged against them are one of the few uncorrupt cops, Commissioner Scialoja, along with those traditional pillars of Italian society in the shape of the Sicilian Mafia and the Neapolitan Camorra. ‘Let’s take Rome,’ Lebanese tells his gang after their first big success when he cajoles them into using their money to move into drugs and gambling like the Mafia in Sicily, rather than blowing it on women and Rolexes. ‘Let’s take it before someone else does.’ In a further ominous twist, shady right-wing security service figures subcontract their dirty work to the gang during the era that was disfigured by the assassination of Aldo Moro and the Bologna massacre. Season two moved onto the 1980s, following events after the killing of gang leader Lebanese. The series had its roots in a book by Judge Giancarlo De Cataldo, which then became a cult film in Italy. Director of the TV series Stefano Sollima gave the drama a cinematic feel, and the production had a scope and ambition rarely seen in British television these days. ‘I wanted to have something that was glamorous sometimes, but normally really tough and

realistic,’ Sollima told CrimeTimePreview. ‘Today, if you show this series to young people, they can’t believe it was true. For that reason, I put a lot of attention into the detail for costumes and the look of it. It was important to make it realistic. It’s the first time you can see what happened in Rome, normally a quiet city. The Banda della Magliana was historically exceptional. A group of people got the power in Rome and then they deal with part of the State and the Camorra. It never happened before, and now no one rules the city like they did.’ Shooting with handheld cameras, using overlapping violent scenes played out to pop classics by the likes of Iggy Pop and disco group Chic, with a style that relies heavily on landmark mob movies such as GoodFellas, Romanzo Criminale is an thought-provoking adrenaline rush through a frightening era of modern Italian history.

Classic episode: The 12th and final episode of series one saw Lebanese’s drug use and paranoia damage his self control, while Ice looked to escape the life and go abroad with his girlfriend, Roberta. It all ends with Lebanese, in the pouring rain, demanding that his mother, who has condemned his criminal life, let him in to her apartment so that he tell her how successful he has become. Instead, at this low point in his life, motorcycle assassins pull up and execute the King of Rome.

Watercooler fact: The Banda della Magliana operated during what Italians call the anni di piombo, or years of lead. This refers to the number of bullets that flew during the turmoil, which included a wave of terrorism carried out by right- and left-wing paramilitaries in which nearly 2000 murders were committed. The Banda along with other criminal groups and rogue secret service elements were all said to have been involved. The period, in which terror seems to have been used to maintain social obedience, is still shrouded in controversy and debate.

PREVIOUS: 43 Veronica Mars 44 Appropriate Adult 45 Homeland 46 Out 47 The Cops 48 Moonlighting 49 Brotherhood 50 Copper

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Inspector De Luca DVD Review

DVD: ★★★½


In our recent poll pitching Inspector De Luca against his modern Italian contemporary Inspector Montalbano, it was Montalbano who emerged as most popular by three to one. But Montalbano has had longer to develop a following, and De Luca has already won over a small dedicated following.
This release contains the four adventures of the detective who operates in pre-war Fascist Italy, and was seen recently on BBC4. While the character is probably not as well developed as Montalbano, these early stories are stylishly done, with a good mix of intrigue, romance and cynicism about the Italian way of corruption in high places. De Luca, played by Alessandro Preziosi, always gets to the bottom of the investigation, but it usually leaves a bitter taste. 
The four stories included here, all taken from the books of best-selling writer Carlo Lucarelli, are Unauthorised Investigation, Carte Blanche, The Damned Season and Via Della Oche. There are no extras in this collection.
Released by Arrow Films. Rating:15, Duration: 420mins, Language: Italian with English subtitles, £14.99. Available here

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Inspector De Luca, BBC4, Alessandro Preziosi, PREVIEW

Rating: ★★★½ 

BBC4: starts Saturday, 22 March, 9pm

Story: In Riccione, Italy, in 1938, the body of a young prostitute is found on a beach not far from Mussolini’s holiday residence. The police chief is terrified of scandal and wants to close the case quickly by charging the victim’s pimp – but Deputy Inspector De Luca is unconvinced that the case has been solved.

AFTER Inspector Montalbano and Young Montalbano‘s successful seduction of BBC4’s crime fans, here is another slice of Italian noir. The difference this time is that Inspector De Luca is a period drama, set in Mussolini’s pre-war fascist state.

The opener, called Unauthorised Investigation, introduces us to the seaside setting Riccione in 1938, and the title refers to Deputy Inspector De Luca’s refusal to abide by the conclusion of his boss that a prostitute has been murdered by her pimp.

The police chief’s haste is down to the crime having taken place near private beach of Il Duce, and he wants to avoid any scandal.

Menace and intimidation in Mussolini’s Italy

The series is interesting in that the setting and era are used well. The Riccione area was once considered the summer capital of Fascism, and the story lovingly employs the costumes and lush hotels of the period to fine effect.

The whole mood of intimidation and menace emanating from those close to the regime is also a powerful feature of the story.

We soon realise De Luca, with his half-hearted fascist salute, is no great devotee of Mussolini. He is patronised by his colleagues and superiors, most of whom are eager to curry favour with the regime.

The production looks handsome and the story has a good quota of intrigue and glamour. If De Luca’s character is as well-developed during the series as Montalbano’s, he might just give his modern counterpart a run for his money.

Cast: Alessandro Preziosi Deputy Inspector De Luca, Kasia Smutniak Laura Utimpergerr, Rolando Ravello Roberto Rassetto, Corrado Fortuna Leopoldo Pugliese, Richard Sammel Silvestri, Bruno Armado Tarantini, Ken Duken Dannunzio

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Inspector Montalbano 3, with Luca Zingaretti, PREVIEW

Angelica (MARGARET MADE), Salvo Montalbano (LUCA ZINGARETTI). BBC4 Inspector Montalbano
Montalbano has some urgent questions for Angelica – over a glass of white. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★★ 

BBC4: starts Saturday, 19 October, 9pm 

Story: A series of burglaries takes place at the homes of wealthy Vigata residents, including that of a bank manager called Angelica, to whom Salvo is instantly attracted.

MONTALBANO FANS will be salivating at the thought of all that wonderful food on offer again as a new series returns – pasta with freshly caught sea urchins, sea food salad and that other Sicilian speciality, Revenge Served Cold.

The plots are intrinsic, of course, to these mysteries based on author Andrea Camilleri’s stories,

Salvo Montalbano (LUCA ZINGARETTI) BBC4
Luca Zingaretti

but equally it is the characters, the luscious setting and the lifestyle (so different from those chilly and joyless Scandi-noir mysteries) that have made Montalbano a quiet hit with a devoted band of viewers.

In this opener, Angelica’s Smile, which follows the success of the Young Montalbano prequel that finished last week, the commissario is confronted by a spate of ingenious burglaries hitting Vigata’s filthy rich. On the face of it, the thefts are a highly lucrative scam, but our hero soon suspects they may be a cover for some long-stewing grudge.

Can Montalbano resist the stunning Angelica?

Humour always plays a part in these stories, and while Catarella’s one-man Abbott and Costello act grates after a while, this story opens with a nice running joke. Salvo wakes to hear his girlfriend Livia saying in her sleep, ‘No, Carlo, not from behind.’

Disturbed, Montalbano is then confronted by a series of Carlos, from waiters to scrap metal merchants, as his desperation grows to find out what Livia has been up to.

The earthiness continues when the detective interviews a flimsily clad and stunning Angelica, a senior bank teller who has become a victim of the burglars. She engineers several encounters with him on slender pretexts and it’s soon obvious that she doesn’t see Livia as a stumbling block to getting physical with Salvo herself.

Luca Zingaretti is cool as ever

And then there’s the town gossip, a wonderful character that Montalbano interviews who is only interested in telling the police the most filthy tales about the people they’re interested in.

For all the fun and observations about Sicilian society, Inspector Montalbano still features sharp mysteries about some tragic, nasty and all too human crimes. It’s a delicate balance that RAI, the Italian broadcaster, pulls off well.

And actor Luca Zingaretti is just right as the cop whether dealing with the idiocy of Catarella, femmes fatales such as Angelica or crooks and corrupt officials. Just don’t talk to him while he’s eating.

Cast: Luca Zingaretti Salvo Montalbano, Angelo Russo Catarella, Peppino Mazzotta Fazio,  Cesare Bocci Mimi Augello, Lina Perned Livia, Margareth Made Angelica Cosulich

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Young Montalbano BBC4, with Michele Riondino PREVIEW

Young Montalbano (Michele Riondino). Pics: BBC
Before he was bald – Young Montalbano (Michele Riondino). Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★½

BBC4: starts Saturday, 7 September, 9pm

Story: In a prequel to Inspector Montalbano, the detective moves to a remote village in the Sicilian mountains, where he investigates the case of an attempted murder at the hands of a vulnerable woman, whose motives appear unfathomable.

WHILE THE SCANDI-NOIR faves The Killing, The Bridge and the rest have hogged the headlines, the Italian star of the BBC4 crime slot has been more low-key while quietly building up a loyal following.

British Inspector Montalbano fans are out there now in Sicily on the Montalbano trail, buying the boxsets and contacting this blog demanding to know when Luca Zingaretti will be back as the Commissario.

This new series, which does for Montalbano what ITV’s Endeavour has done for Inspector Morse, will

Young Montalbano ep 1 BBC4 Viola
Suspect – Viola

delight devotees by depicting a younger, more hirsute version of the much-loved detective.

Michele Riondino plays the young Montalbano with some empathy for Zingaretti’s portrayal, and with author Andrea Camilleri writing for this new series, there is plenty of continuity and protection of the character.

Montalbano is starved of his beloved seafood

In the opener, Montalbano is 33 and out of sorts, having been posted to the mountain town of Mascalippa, where his sinuses suffer and he can’t find his way around. But we soon see how he gets his posting to his beloved seaside hometown of Vigata with a promotion from deputy to commissario.

With a nod to fans who know his quirks and preferences, there is the moment he finds his beloved Calogero restaurant with its marvellous seafood, so that the detective can escape the goat ragu of Mascalippa. The cuisine is almost as important to these stories as the murder plot twists.

As for that, Montalbano is after the killer of a nasty piece of work who has been found with his head bashed in.

Murder suspect has been abandoned by her family

While his idiot boss insists on arresting a shepherd who has a consignment of Second World War

Young Montalbano ep1 BBC4 Borusso
Suspect – Borruso

hobnail boots that are linked to the murder, the Commissario is soon investigating a poor young woman whose motives for killing the rogue seem unfathomable. Having fallen pregnant, she has been abandoned by her family as a ‘whore’.

A fine feature of these stories is always the depiction of corrupting influences, the nods and favours that seem to oil so much of Italian life, and which constantly confront our man. Here, no sooner is he installed in his office in Vigata than an oleaginous lawyer is pressing him to give sympathetic testimony at the trial of a rich thug from an influential family whom Montalbano has witnessed battering an old man following a road-rage incident. How he navigates these moments is always fascinating.

Young Montalbano complements the original series really well. The story is interesting, there is plenty of humour (a bungling young Catarella features), the setting is wonderful and the food, of course, mouthwatering.

Also check out…

Montalbano – why it’s the best show on TV

British tourists on the Montalbano trail

BBC4 Montalbano

Cast: Michele Riondino Salvo Montalbano, Andrea Tidona Carmine Fazio, Katia Greco Mery, Valentina D’Agostino Viola Di Monaco, Fabrizio Pizzuto Catarella

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The Honourable Woman, New Tricks, Shetland, Z Cars, Inspector Nardone

Maggie Gyllenhaal has signed to appear in Hugo Blick’s new thriller, The Honourable Woman, for BBC2. Blick was behind the quirky, compelling The Shadow Line, so all-in-all this looks a bit special. Gyllenhaal will play Nessa, whose father was a Zionist arms procurer, and, as a child, she and her brother witnessed his assassination. As an adult, she inherits his business and tries to switch its purpose from arms to laying data cable between the Israel and the West Bank. The Shadow Line was convoluted but full of brilliant verbal sparring, so this new seven-parter with its spies and international setting should be thick with intrigue.

• The tenth series of New Tricks returns on Tuesday, 30 July, at 9pm. This time in the drama following the retired cold-case cops, Brian Lane (Alun Armstrong) is suspended after assaulting an officer he suspects of covering up a death in custody that led to his early retirement. Stalwarts Amanda Redman and Alun Armstrong will be leaving during this series, following the recent departure of James Bolam. However, Tamzin Outhwaite and Nicholas Lyndhurst will be joining Dennis Waterman and new boy Denis Lawson, so the hit drama will be facing a bit of crunch time to see if and how the fresh characters bed in. Meanwhile, the 9th and final series of CSI: NY also launches on Tuesday, 30 July, on C5. But New Tricks, wobbling from all the departures as it may be, should still see off CSI: NY in the ratings with ease.

• Must admit, I couldn’t really understand why the Beeb decided to do another series of Shetland, such was the quiet passing of the first, but they’re certainly throwing the stars at it for the next outing of the Douglas Henshall drama. Brian Cox ( The Bourne Identity) and Julie Graham (Survivors) will be on hand for the next batch of Ann Cleeve‘s stories – Raven Black, Blue Lightning and Dead Water. If the writers manage to breath some life into the characters this time round, I’ll raise a dram to them.

• If you’re an Everton supporter the Z Cars theme tune is never far away, but for the rest of us there will be a chance to renew acquaintances with the music and accompanying series that was so hugely popular and influential during the 60s and 70s. Z Cars Collection One will be released on a two-disc DVD on 2 September. Writer Troy Kennedy Martin believed that the genre needed ‘an injection of energy and bite’ and that’s what Z Cars had in abundance. Making its TV debut on the BBC in 1962, it went on to become one of the longest-running British TV shows, airing until 1978.

• Inspector Montalbano is currently on leave of absence from BBC4. But the Sicilian is not the only Italian crime-fighter on UK telly. Ever heard of Inspector Nardone? If not, that’s probably because he is tucked away on True Movies, one of the lesser known multi-channel networks. It’s a period drama set in post-war Milan and is based on a real person. Nardone (played by Sergio Assisi) is a crusading cop who roots out corruption at the Questura despite opposition from his spineless superiors. Like Montalbano, there a strain of light-heartedness and romance running through the series, and for crime fans who like the era, it’s a fresh take on the continental cop genre. Inspector Nardone returns to True Movies 1 at 1am from Saturday, 17 August, through to Friday, 23 August, and on True Drama at 1am from 12 August through to 17 August.

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