Claudio Giovanessi (director)
13 July 2020 (released)
11 July 2020
Based on the books of Roberto Saviano (Gomorrah) you’d expect similar themes to that, regarding the nastier side of Naples and the appeal organised crime has to the young. Maybe not so much are riffs on the American mob films like Goodfellas and The Godfather. These however are superficial but you leave yourself open when you include a gangster wedding and a club scene during which the camera trolls the crowd introducing the viewer to the rival gangs.
The story hinges on Nicola (Franceso Di Napoli) who is a resident of the Sanitae neighbourhood of Naples. Camorra turf wars have changed the complexion of the place with new gangs displacing old and changing business. The current mob extort from shop owners and market stall holders, something which gets at Nicola as his mother owns a dry-cleaner. He longs for the days when the criminals did their own thing without bothering the small businesses.
To this end Nicola and his gang set about trying to get back what they see as theirs through infiltration and violence. He’s slightly distracted by Letizia (Viviana Aprea) a lady whom he impresses by beating someone up in a club. They do fall in love but as Nicola’s life gets more involved with the mobs and that Letizia lives in what is forbidden territory for him, he has to take a decision.
Nicola and gang climb up the bloody poll only to find that it’s not what they expected and its fleeting. This is vividly shown by director Claudio Giovanessi when Nicola is his balcony regally surveying his district in bright sunlight. Then later in the same place with the gloom of night with problems all around.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the age of the protagonists is early to middle teens already wrapped up in a life of violence, money and drug dealing overseen by adults who cream off the top. It’s merciless exploitation though the youngsters seemingly have nothing else to look forward to and it is almost a calling. Their ages are only too clear as we see the childlike glee when they receive their weapons, and their inexperience as they get deeper in and the pressure starts to pile-on.
And younger still Nicola’s brother Cristian (Luca Nacarlo) who looks up to his brother, while his mother knowing full well what is going on when he buys her a bedroom suite, just seems to go with it. It is very depressing and closer in tone to A Ciambra than the aforementioned gangster films, in its depiction of the attraction of vicious low-level criminality.
Nevertheless Giovanessi (who co-wrote this with Saviano) lets the story play out naturally with very little fuss leaving the viewer to make what they will of it. The camera hangs onto the actors so we are tight on with them for the entire film. There’s a driving kinetic energy taking it forward as Nicola finds his feet and then falters.
The actors are very impressive with many making their debuts. Di Napoli is outstanding as the man/child would be mob boss with confused morals and ethics that drive him to think the he is performing a public service by not extorting from local shopkeepers.
Piranhas is available on iTunes, Amazon, Sky, Virgin, Google Play & Chili from 13 July.