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Stars: Pierfrancesco Favino, Elio Germano, Claudio Amendola, Alessandro Borghi, Greta Scarano, Giulia Elettra Gorietti, Antonello Fassari, Jean-Hugues Anglade, Adamao Dionisi, Giacomo Ferrara

Director: Stefano Sollima

Hollywood actors engaged in playing (and rather too often, overplaying) Mafiosi have always been – and no doubt will continue to be – contemporary cinema staples, ranging from Brando with a mouthful of cotton wool, De Niro and Pacino, sometimes and regrettably reduced to near parody on the screen by James Caan, Ray Liotta, Vincent Pastori and many others.

Here, however, the screenplay, dialogue, cast, locations and, above all, director Stefano Sollima are Italian, resulting in a powerful crime melodrama that hits hard and often and is thankfully free from the all-too-familiar Tinsel Town genre tarnish.

In Ancient Rome the Suburra quarter was characterized by being a place of inns and brothels that served as an ideal place for crooks and politicians to meet and organise their corrupt, mutually profitable collaborations.

Sollima’s riveting storytelling (scripted by Giancarlo De Cataldo, Carlo Bonini Sandro Petraglia and Stefano Rulli, from De Cataldo and Bonini’s novel) hits hard and often, setting its story of crime and corruption in 2011 when Italy was near to economic collapse.

Sollima sets his story during “seven days to the Apocalypse” when corrupt Mafia families order former crime kingpin Claudio Amendola to use his influence to transform Rome’s waterfront into a Las Vegas-style gambling haven.

Cue escalating intrigue and violence, the death of a young woman, politician Pierfrancesco Favino being sucked into a web of criminality and jeopardy and the whole thing grippingly reaching its climax as the hoodlums face betrayal, danger and death…

Ideal casting and potent performances make the most of an increasingly suppurating storyline that makes the thriller’s progression through to the heralded Apocalypse all the more compelling

Sollima (making his feature film directorial debut after the success of his television series Gomorrah) doesn’t pull any punches - the Pope has a walk-on role and white knights on chargers are notably absent in an increasingly tough, vicious and violent (the death of one character at the teeth of a snarling rabid dog is memorably vicious) and attention-grabbing mobster melodrama that makes the majority of genre Hollywood thrillers seem pallid by comparison.

And Paolo Carnera’s darkly atmospheric cinematography is an asset, too, for a gangster movie whose darkness, all-too-realistic nastiness and lack of conscience makes Brando, Pacino, De Niro and their Hollywood celluloid ilk seem positively loveable by comparison.

Alan Frank

Italy/France 2015. UK Distributor: Kaleidoscope Entertainment. Colour.
130 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 18.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 3, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 2, Swearing 2.

Review date: 25 Jun 2016