Rome, 2011. Mafiosi, churchmen and politicians thrash out covert plans to transform the city’s waterfront into a glittering Vegas-like strip, but the accidental death of a prostitute sees it all spinning out of control.
The city that gave us La Dolce Vita provides an altogether more violent backdrop in Stefano Sollima’s edgy, often chilling follow-up to his TV spin-off of Gomorrah. Named after Ancient Rome's criminal underground and set over seven days leading up to an unexplained “Apocalypse” in 2011, it charts the corruption that’s eaten through Italian society like rust in a flurry of explosive moments amid an endless, oppressive downpour. By comparison, Se7en’s incessant rain seems more like an April sprinkle.
Stefano Sollina elevates his crime thriller into a gripping parable embroidered with mystical touches.
The plot's catalyst is a politician with a thing for underage hookers (Rush’s Pierfrancesco Favino). This deeply compromised man offers a suitably seedy conduit into Rome’s corridors of powers, where lawmakers conspire with criminals to redevelop the city’s unspoilt seafront. The deal that stands to make them all millions soon threatens them all with disgrace – or worse – when a girl is killed.
A visual and kinetic filmmaker, Sollima combines Michael Mann-like set pieces – a supermarket gun battle to make Dale Winton weep is one of the best of the year – with more of Gomorrah’s scathing social commentary to lacerate the Italian political and criminal classes. Unlike many Mafia thrillers, these men are not held up as figures worthy of respect. When the merda hits the fan, they scurry like bugs under a freshly-lifted rock.
In other hands it could all still have been fodder for a middling crime thriller – 2013’s Broken City tackled similar themes with a fraction of the verve – but Sollina elevates it into a gripping parable embroidered with mystical touches (its Capo dei Capi is a feared gangster called Samurai) and splashes of lurid violence. Throw in a glacially cool M83 score and you have a Mafia thriller of which even Scorsese would be proud. The Netflix ten-parter later this year should be well worth marking your diary for.
A stylish crime thriller that dissects Italian society with a cool eye and an itchy trigger finger.