Gomorrah aims to be a tough social commentary about the complex corners of corruption in modern day Naples, a cavernous urban breeding ground for drugs, revenge, and murder. At times the film succeeds, especially when director Matteo Garrone veers off from the standard clicks of gangsters into the realm of everyday people, men and women forced to make daily decisions of Shakespearian proportions in order to survive. For a film completely obsessed with the intricacies of the gangster life, the struggles of a conflicted Tailor and a weak Money Collector far outweigh the demise of two idiot mafia upstarts or the tragedy of a kid eager to join the Mob.
However, most of Gomorrah is shockingly conventional, a homegrown package of assassinations and double-crossings that never add up to more than their surface value. These killings are often witnessed by characters caught between loyalty, survival and greed, but their moral dilemmas are simplistic and benign. Garrone paints his bloody mosaic with heavy doses of long, hand held camera takes, capturing the endless array of corners, alleys, and rooms making up the epic projects that house the Mafia’s operations. In this sense, Gomorrah displays an unmatched sense of place, connecting it’s five stories with a dynamic and constantly shifting mise-en-scene. In the end, this masterful visual approach harbors a hollow center, a place burning with cinematic potential but lacking the character depth needed to make a lasting impact.