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REVIEW: Suburra (2015) August 9, 2018

Posted by Dragan Antulov in Film Reviews.
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A Film Review

Copyright Dragan Antulov 2018

There seems to be fewer and fewer proper gangster films in contemporary Hollywood. So, all those who want to seek new classics of that particular genre must seek them elsewhere. One of such, seemingly unexpected, candidate for new gangster film classic is Suburra, 2015 Italian film directed by Stefano Sollima. Based on the novel by Carlo Bonini and Giancarlo De Cataldo, its title is inspired by eponymous neighbourhood of ancient Rome, infamous for as den of poverty, prostitution and crime. Inspiration for the title might be ancient, but the events that inspired the actual plot are quite contemporary – downfall of two most powerful men in modern day Rome. The plot begins in November 2011, when the unnamed Pope (which looks like real life Benedict XVI) is making decision to abdicate (which he would ultimately do in 2013), just as the government of unnamed and unseen prime minister (who could easily be real life Silvio Berlusconi) is about to lose majority in Italian Parliament. Among the members of Parliament is Filippo Malgradi (played by Pierfrancesco Favino), who seems more preoccupied with the law that would allow transformation of Roman port Ostia into luxurious Vegas-style resort. The project would benefit his sponsors and associates, among them Samurai (played by Claudio Amendola), former right-wing terrorist whose modest petrol station is just a front for a headquarters of well-connected and politically protected criminal empire. One night Malgradi allows himself to engage in some drug-fueled sex with underage prostitute, leading to a tragic accident and setting a series of apocalyptic events involving various factions of Roman organised crime, political establishment and Catholic Church.

Stefano Sollima, son of Sergio Sollima, director best known for gritty 1970s crime thrillers, has already created a reputation of his own by dabbling with the same genre, both in film and television, including hit series like Romanzo Criminale and Gomorrah, the latter inspired by eponymous film. Suburra in many ways reflects the dark and depressive mood of 1970s Italy, during infamous “Years of Lead”, when Italians were confronted with realities of lines between organised crime, terrorism, politics and big business being completely and sometimes violently blurred. Sollima, however, adds a refreshing sense of style and great narrative skill to his film. The script very efficiently introduces a set of different characters – from the very top to the bottom of Roman society – and the plot lets them connect and interact throughout few days in convincing and realistic manner. Sollima is helped in his efforts by excellent cinematography of Paolo Carnera and very effective soundtrack by French electronic music band M83, creating an unique atmosphere which is noirish and attractive at the same time. Sollima’s skills are even better when he switches between styles, sometimes creating huge effective contrast between scenes of decadent beauty (like the orgy in the beginning) and those that feature uncompromisingly brutal and hyper-realistic violence (like the almost semi-documentary gunfight at the shopping mall). Suburra is also aided by a diverse and talented cast, which includes some international stars like Favino and Jean-Hugues Anglade (in brief role of corrupt French cardinal), and some lesser known actors (like Elio Germano in the role of a pimp, Giulia Gorietti as prostitute and Alessandro Borghi as brutal head of Ostia gangsters). Plot mostly avoids cliches, at least until the very end, which might seem as little bit too Hollywood-like or convenient, but it also brings some surprise by allowing seemingly weakest or the most paathetic characters to have the last word. While it is too early to tell whether Suburra would become one of the 2010s top gangster films, its success is undisputed and could be seen also in Netflix-produced prequel TV series Suburra: Blood on Rome.

RATING: 8/10