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Imported Gomorrah offers stark, dark mob activities


A mob don and his wife in Naples-set Gomorrah. Sundance photo

Premiering: Wednesday, Aug. 24th at 9 p.m. (central) on Sundance TV
Starring: Fortunato Cerlino, Maria Pia Calzone, Salvatore Esposito, Marco D’Amore, Marco Palvetti, Elena Starace and many more
Produced by: Giovanni Bianconi, Stefano Bises, Leonardo Fasoli, Ludovica Rampoldi, Roberto Saviano

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Life can be short, for the population at large and most definitely in the gangland, Naples-set Gomorrah.

Dark in tone and oftentimes even more darkly lit, Season One’s 12 episodes begin unreeling Wednesday, Aug. 24th on Sundance TV. TV critics were given access to all of them, but I only hung in for the first three. Mainly because life indeed is too short, in my view at least, for a full investment in a drama that accentuates mob violence but lacks the “charm,” humor and overall empathy generated by The Sopranos.

Reasonable facsimiles of Pauly Walnuts, Silvio Dante or Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero would be most welcome. Instead, the battle-hardened denizens of Gomorroah methodically go about their amoral business while generating next to no rooting interest in their survivals. Machine gun the whole lot of ‘em and be done with it.

Still, Gomorrah has emerged as “Italy’s most popular television series of all time,” according to Sundance TV publicity materials. And the network already has acquired Season 2 as well, with the Italian intact and English language subtitles deployed.

Drawn from the same-named novel by Roberto Saviano, Gomorrah first was a 2008 feature film that won the Grand Prix at that year’s Cannes Film Festival. One of its central characters, Roberto, even worked in “waste management.”

The series version is populated by different characters, with Don Pietro Savastano (Fortunato Cerlino) the godfather in residence. His principal foe is Salvatore Conte (Marco Palvetti), a man who can’t seem to make up his mind about the suitability of a new living room couch. Both men want to control a billion dollar cocaine trade that’s regularly referenced in TV news accounts. There’s a lot of automatic weapons fire to underscore this, with one hit deserving another -- and so on.

Don Pietro would like his impulsive son “Genny” (Salvatore Esposito) to succeed him. But the chubby kid is too much of a playboy and first must be instructed in the art of cold-blooded killing by the trusted Ciro Di Marzio (Marco D’Amore). Don Pietro’s wife, “Imma” (Maria Pia Calzone), also has designs on the top job.

By the end of Episode 3, one key character is still incarcerated in a prison with incredibly lax security while another makes a rather amazingly quick recovery from a self-inflicted motor vehicle accident. F-bombs regularly intercede in the review screeners, but surely won’t make the cut on an advertiser-supported cable network. There also are brief flashes of nudity.

Hard-core devotees of mob activities might well find something to like in the all-business approach of Gomorrah. But for me, the “entertainment” value is next to nil in times when real-life, mass mayhem is all too plentiful. The Sopranos had a relatable cavalcade of characters whose foibles and fractured syntax were leavening agents. Bada bing, bada boom. Gomorrah perhaps is a more realistic depiction of the mob mentality. But I wouldn’t want to break bread with any of these guys. Nor do I care what happens to them.

GRADE: B-minus

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