Films of the week: Gomorrah (15), Mirrors (15)

Matteo Garrone's remarkable film Gomorrah is about a society living in fear. It is a Mafia movie, specifically the Neapolitan branch, the Camorra, yet it makes a decisive and courageous break from the traditions of the genre in revealing how very unglamorous life under the Mob can be.

Don't expect sharp suits, killer bling, goodfella bonding or even a decent bolognese: the keynote here is rock-bottom realism, the setting a mournful concrete housing estate of a kind you can hardly believe exists in la bella Italia. And its characters are almost exclusively drawn from the lower echelons of the populace, be they Camorra thugs, volatile and uneducated youths on the make, or the mostly terrified locals whose aim isn't living so much as surviving.

Using his camera in a sidelong, unobtrusive way, Garrone presents a mosaic of social and civic corruption that couldn't be more damning. For a while we follow a lonely bagman who gives cash payments to the families of imprisoned Camorra foot soldiers; then it's a sweet-faced kid named Toto, who delivers groceries for his mum but senses bigger fish to fry when he's recruited by the drug-traffickers; two slightly older toerags find a cache of guns and go on a spree, believing they can beat the Camorra at their own game. Even the apparently innocent business of dressmaking can't escape the outfit's tentacular reach, as a tailor is savagely punished after he moonlights for Chinese rivals.

In the background, meanwhile, a gang war is simmering. We aren't enlightened on the details of it, just the blood-spattered endgames: the very first scene of the film has a bunch of minor mafiosi lazing about in a tanning parlour just before gunmen arrive and blow holes in them. The violence is so sudden that we barely have time to register what's happened, let alone why it's happened.

While its setting is local, the film's horizon is national. This is illustrated in another narrative strand involving a businessman who dumps toxic industrial waste – a growth industry in Naples – with no thought for the poisoning of the landscape. He takes on a young assistant, Roberto, who is initially beguiled by trips to Venice and Milan, but eventually baulks at the levels of cynicism he's required to tolerate. First, it's the insane farce of hiring children to drive lorry-loads of toxic effluent; then it's the neglect of an orchard, and his boss's casual disdain for the gift of peaches a little old lady has given them.



The trailer for Gomorrah


Film Trailers from Filmtrailer.com



The hope is that noble souls like Roberto aren't alone in swimming against the tidal flow of Neapolitan vice, though the news emanating from Naples is hardly encouraging: the author of the book on which Gomorrah is based, another Roberto (Saviano), has been forced into hiding for fear of reprisal from the very mobsters he exposed. Their displeasure couldn't pay this film a more chilling compliment.

Let's immediately concede that the paranormal thriller Mirrors is not the worst in the long stream of American remakes of Asian ghost stories, if only because it would be heavy work to sit down and rank them in order. And while the money and production values behind the film are American, it should be noted that the director, Alexandre Aja, and his co-screenwriter, Gregory Levasseur, are both French, and most of the filming was done in Bucharest. Well, I suppose it makes a change from the Isle of Man.

By far the spookiest thing about it is the main location, a burned-out Art Deco department store that's been neglected and unrepaired for years because of an unsettled lawsuit. After the mysterious suicide of its nightwatchman, a disgraced cop, Ben Carson (Kiefer Sutherland), takes up the job, wandering around its carbonised shell and wondering why its huge floor-to-ceiling mirrors are so finely preserved – they're the only things in the building that haven't succumbed to fire damage.

Ben is a troubled, angry type, suspended from the force after accidentally killing a colleague and now self-medicating to help himself through it. His wife (Paula Patton) is keeping him away from their kids, and has a further reason to suspect his mental state: the violent hallucinations he's been experiencing cause him to burst into the family home and frantically cover all the reflecting surfaces in green paint (Farrow & Ball, by the look, but it still seems unreasonable).



The trailer for Mirrors


Film Trailers from Filmtrailer.com



In the early stages, these looking-glass visions are slightly upsetting. After all, no one wants to gaze in a mirror and find a distorted Francis Bacon-style head reflected back at them. But instead of exploring the eerie nooks and crannies of the department store for clues, the film decides to branch out and have the demonic forces behind the mirror invade people's bathrooms, sending our hero on a cross-country mission, first to a broken-down farm, then to a remote convent. The haunted-house mystery is dissipated by degrees, and the screenplay (perhaps losing something in translation) keeps stumbling into farce. When one of the mirror victims has her jaw ripped in half while in the bathtub, the crime-scene police officer warns Ben before entering: "It's not good". No kidding. Later, when Ben finds himself up against it, he holds an old lady at gunpoint and snarls, "Don't make me threaten you!".

Has Sutherland become so possessed by the spirit of Jack Bauer that holding a gun on a defenceless female – a nun, at that – is now second nature to him? It's pretty much the opposite of heroic behaviour, even if he does believe the woman to be a schizoid avenger equipped with destructive telekinetic powers. Perhaps he should take a break and do a romantic comedy for a change. All this high intensity seems to be getting to him.

Gomorrah (15) (Rated 4/ 5 )

Mirrors (15) (Rated 1/ 5 )

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Armie Hammer in the new film of ‘The Lone Ranger’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

    Tribal gathering

    Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
    Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

    Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

    Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
    10 best trays

    Get carried away with 10 best trays

    Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
    Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

    Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

    Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
    Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

    Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

    He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
    How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

    How to find gold

    Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
    Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

    Not born in the USA

    Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
    10 best balsamic vinegars

    10 best balsamic vinegars

    Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend