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European films

Film review: Suburra – mafiosi join politicians and churchmen in gripping Italian crime thriller

Stefano Sollima looks at the relationships between the mafia, the Vatican and the government in this bleak tale of an attempt to turn a waterfront area of Rome into a Las Vegas-style entertainment district

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 October, 2017, 7:04am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 November, 2017, 11:53am

4/5 stars

This Italian-language mafia story should appeal to every crime film fan. The participants include corrupt politicians, established mob families, upstart moneylending clans and innocent bystanders. Stefano Sollima, a prolific director of crime dramas on Italian television, keeps a tight grip on the multilayered storyline, and the result is exciting and credible.

Adapted from a novel by Giancarlo De Cataldo and Carlo Bonini, the story’s pinned to a mafia plan to develop Rome’s Ostia waterfront into a Las Vegas-style area. The project is so big that all the criminals in town want a piece of the action.

Revered mafia operative Samurai (Claudio Amendola) represents the big gangs, and must ensure crooked politician Malgradi (Pierfrancesco Favino) passes a bill to enable the development. Number 8 (Alessandro Borghi) is intent on making sure his crime family get what they deserve. Even the Vatican is in on the deal. The project then unravels when a prostitute dies in Malgradi’s hotel bedroom.

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Suburra is a big picture that never loses track of the small details, and these bring the characters, and the realistic action sequences, to life. Sollima’s view of society is bleak, and in touch with our times. Mobsters are happy to kidnap children and murder women, and no one can be trusted, especially politicians, who are happy to line their pockets at the public’s expense.

For those looking for more, a television series based on the story, Suburra: Blood on Rome, started streaming on Netflix on October 6.

Suburra opens on October 12

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