Suburra: NZIFF Film Review
The NZIFF's first blistering and searing film has arrived in the form of a dramatic look at corruption in Italy that's soaked in style and oozes character.
Based on the novel by Carlo Bonini and Giancarlo De Cataldo of the same name, it's an intricately lurid crime story that seizes you by the throat midway through and never lets go.
A politician, prostitutes, drugs, land grabs, power-plays, bribery, blackmail, turf wars, a government in crisis and the priesthood.
These are all familiar tenets of the Italian drama world and the fact Suburra embraces them to create an initially disparate web of threads shouldn't be the reason to dismiss it outright. As the story plays out against a backdrop of 7 days before the "apocalypse" arrives, the film's intricacies are brought together by a commanding cinematographer and a sense of sickening dread.
From the politician whose Icarus like hubris demands punishment to the son saddled with his father's uncontrollable debts, every frame reeks with someone fighting against the tide and the fact they could lose their soul at any moment.
There are real consequences for all in this film, and while the women ultimately feel like objects more than people, the film's all the better for embracing the tropes under the helmship of Gomorrah TV series director Stefano Sollima.
While the spiritual crisis alluded to is a thread that falls flat despite its portentous introduction and book-ending scene, what plays out in between with the Mafia and the interlaced narrative is nothing short of stunning.
Sprawling corruption, bathed in a synthesiser OST and filmed against an unending backdrop of rain are a potent concoction that deliver on flair after initially looking like it'd flounder under its own self-imposed epic feeling.
Ultimately though, the compelling Suburra grips intensely and delivers cinema that shows everyone involved fighting for their very existence, both literally and morally.
The Sopranos it ain't, and in 2 and a quarter hours it delivers bravura cinema that is as tense and exciting as it is delivered with flair. It's a desperate scrabble for all, whether they're jostling to get to the table and be an equal player or plotting their next step up the ladder.
Suburra is relentless in its execution, and as the web pulls tighter and the story becomes more taut it's difficult not to get sucked into this world that never once loses focus on the singular players, their motivations and the increasingly sickening feeling that misdeeds will deliver disastrous consequences on them but results that prove emotionally rewarding for the audience.