“Leave. Now. We mourn alone.”
Google Translate reliably tells me that the title for this almost unheard of Italian crime thriller, Suburra, means “slum”. I can tell you, that this grimy little tale of crime and corruption certainly fits its name.
Ostia, a waterfront area on the outskirts of Rome, is prime real estate in a country on the brink of financial turmoil. Desperate to make it the next Las Vegas or Atlantic City; a respected old school middle man has brokered deals across the city with everyone to make it happen. Using tried and tested methods – murder, extortion, all the favourites from The Sopranos‘ handbook – a man known as “Samurai” has done everything from guarantee a law needed for the work is passed to securing deals to buy the land he wants to convert.
Everyone involved finds themselves on a downward trajectory though, when paid-off politician Filippo Malgradi (Marco Polo’s Pierfrancesco Favino) finds himself with a dead hooker on his hands after an evening of debauchery. After cleaning up his mess with a little help from a local rent-a-thug, Malgradi sets himself on a path that will have him cross paths with not just the mafia(s), but a family of terrifying gypsies – who’s head, Manfredi, looks like the bastard lovechild of Tom Sizemore and Vincent D’Onofrio – and almost everyone else with more than a passing acquaintance with the darker corners of Rome’s underworld.
As everyone’s selfish interests soon start to unravel Samurai’s wheeling and dealing, he can only watch as the criminal underworld implodes on itself.
Remember a few months ago when the posters promised you that Triple 9 was “the crime film of the year”? Yeah, forget all that. I’ve found your crime film of the year ladies and gentlemen; its brought to you by Stefano Sollima – the man behind Gomorrah – and it’s simply outstanding.
Spaced across a week, Suburra‘s story is one that has been told time and time again, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the best told stories I’ve seen in a while. From the opening frames the film seems to be a quiet, subtle affair with as much focus on the uncertain political landscape of Italy as we have on the criminal element of what’s to come.
But with the first gruesome murder – a man hit at a ridiculously high speed and bounced across the road – you’re quickly shown the true tone of the film you’ve sat down to watch. Then, somewhere around an hour into this twisting and turning flick, the pieces fall into place and the stories that were on the brink of intertwining are suddenly mashed together and all hell breaks loose, letting the film wrap itself up in a tense, thrilling finale.
If it was in English, you could easily mistake Suburra for a Martin Scorsese film, such is its stellar direction and story telling. It’s an absolute travesty that this film has got such a limited theatrical release. Luckily, sensible heads have prevailed and allowed the film to go to your VOD method of choice. So, if like me you’d have a long and expensive journey to see it at the flicks, you can rent a copy and watch it at home. Hopefully, with a Netflix exclusive follow-up TV series due next year, this spectacular little film will get a little more attention.