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 – Italian TV series PREVIEW

Ice, the Lebanese, Patrizia, Dandi and Scialoja (front). Pics: BSkyB

Rating ★★★★

Sky Arts 1 from Tuesday, 4 October, 9pm

Story: Inspired by real events – in Rome during the 1970s, a gang run by a crook known as the  Lebanese joins forces with that of a shrewd rival leader called Ice to attempt to become criminal kingpins in the capital. Their first bid to make huge amounts of cash involves kidnapping a wealthy aristocrat, but the plot goes violently wrong… On the trail of the Banda della Magliana, as the gang is called, is idealistic police inspector Nicola Scialoja.

The latest subtitled crime series to hit town and rough-up the home-grown plods such as Lewis and DCI Banks is Romanzo Criminale, a 22-part gangster epic inspired by real events.

Following on from the Wallander successes, Spiral and The Killing, this Italian drama from Sky Italia is all macho stares, nudity, 70s pop music and brutal gang warfare. While it is reminiscent of GoodFellas – murders cross-cut with weddings, set to rock music; the period setting – it is also an compelling bit of history from a turbulent period in Italy’s recent past.

The Lebanese holds court

Kidnapping goes brutally wrong
The focus of the story is a small-time gangster called the Lebanese (all the crooks go by nicknames). Sick of being a minnow in the capital’s crime pool, he and his partner, Dandi, set out to generate some serious cash by kidnapping a wealthy aristocrat, Baron Rosellini, and ransoming him. The Lebanese falls in with another mob run by a clever leader called Ice, and together they try to step up to the big league.

Where the Mafia run Sicily and the Camorra rule Naples, Rome’s underworld is a patchwork of warring gangs. The Lebanese and his partners from around the Magliana district hope their kidnapping will help them rise to the top and take over from the crime warlord known as Terrible.

Inspector Scialoja

The abduction goes brutally wrong, but the gang audaciously come away with the money. The Lebanese convinces most of the gangsters to forgo the prostitutes and Porsches they’ve been dreaming of and actually invest in a new criminal enterprise – drugs.

Old Fiats and massive moustaches
Director Stefano Sollima, a former news cameraman, uses handheld cameras on the streets of Rome to bring the action to vivid life. The period detail, from the vintage Fiat cars to the extravagant moustaches and music by the likes of Iggy Pop and Chic, recreate the period brilliantly.

Sollima assembled a cast of young unknowns, who age convincingly along with their characters as the drugs, women, gambling and outside forces of the Mafia and the police close in. It’s a tough and realistic depiction of the gang and its era.

Romanzo Criminale (Crime Novel) is based on a 1000-page book by the Roman judge, novelist and scriptwriter Giancarlo De Cataldo. This was first turned into a successful Italian movie before the series was made for TV.

Flares for violence – the Banda

While character names have been changed, the true events behind the narrative are familiar to Italians. It was a murky time in the country, with neo-fascist terrorism and police brutality taking place. As the Banda della Magliana rise to prominence, the security services want to enlist it to destabilise the government.

Dandi’s prostitute girlfriend
Up against the gang is idealistic police inspector Nicola Scialoja, suspected of being a communist by his superiors, he has a battle to convince his bosses that a Roman gang is behind the kidnapping. However, he’s only human, and ends up falling for Dandi’s prostitute girlfriend, the stunning Patrizia.

Italian newspaper La Stampa called the series ‘the best television series ever produced in Italy’. Despite the country’s appetite for trashy game and chat shows, that’s no back-handed compliment.

Romanzo Criminale certainly dwarfs most UK crime dramas in terms of its scale and ambition. Bravo!

Cast: Francesco Montanari The Lebanese, Vinicio Marchioni Ice, Alessandro Roja Dandi, Marco Bocci Inspector Scialoja, Daniela Virgilio Patrizia, Marco Giallini Terrible

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