When he was a boy, Roberto Saviano lived in Casal di Principe, a town just north of Naples, where his father worked as a doctor. One day Dr Saviano stepped out into the street to treat a man who had been shot. As punishment for the crime of saving the life of a man who the local Mob – or Camorra – wanted dead, Saviano's father was later severely beaten. His son waited many years to exact an elegant revenge. He infiltrated the criminal organisation and in 2006 published Gomorrah, a book exposing their workings to the world. That book was turned into a Cannes Jury Prize-winning film in 2008 and now a 12-part Italian-made TV series, which began last night on Sky Atlantic.
Gomorrah the TV series is set and shot in Scampia and Secondigliano, like the film was. Its backdrop is the same poverty-stricken housing estates that have historically been the bloody centre of Camorra operations. But six years have passed since that film came out, and the writers of Gomorrah are clearly keen to emphasise that they've noticed. Within the first 10 minutes we heard discussions of Facebook, a new hip-hop track and electronic cigarettes.
This was not just zeitgeisty posturing for its own sake, however. Our hero Ciro (Marco D'Amore) and his mentor-in-crime Attilio are gangsters in the Tarantino tradition; they like to flap their mouths about anything and everything. Everything, that is, except the armed robbery/petrol bombing/drive-by shooting they're about to commit.
This first episode sets up all the familiar elements of a gangster narrative. Ciro is a young, streetwise foot soldier with ambitions to rise through the ranks. Don Pietro is a big boss whose judgement is being questioned. There's a rival crime family muscling in on the heroin trade, and Don Pietro's son Genny (Salvatore Esposito) has one of those yearnings to prove his manhood that can only end in tragedy.
Neither the script nor the acting are anything special, but those familiar with the Italian-American take on the gangster genre might find the novelty of gritty realism is reason enough to stay tuned. In Gomorrah, even the don's gaudy mansion is overlooked by a concrete housing blocks, while the sharp suits have been replaced by stained vests and crumpled tracksuits. It's more Rab C Nesbitt than Tony Soprano.Reuse content