Normally, comparing a film to a television program's intended as a slight, a knock against a film that didn't have the sweep and scope you'd expect to witness on the big screen, but when I compare director Matteo Garrone's Gomorra to The Wire, I hope you'll recognize I mean it as a compliment. Set in the provinces around Naples, where the crime organization known as the Camorra is not parallel to the everyday workings of society but instead is the everyday workings of society, Gomorra's a sweeping, stirring film that has the shoot-and-loot tension of the best crime cinema but also has the scope and serious intent of great drama.
Based on the novel by Roberto Saviano, Gomorra follows five separate stories through the slums and streets in the provinces near Naples. Don Ciro is the local clan bagman, dispensing payouts to families affiliated with the clan. He's a civilized criminal, and the uncivilized times are beginning to wear on him. Marco and Ciro are young, dumb and eager to be independent criminals, heads full of dreams of glory and quotes from Scarface. Roberto finds a patronage position assisting Franco in toxic waste disposal, a lucrative business for the Camorra, especially as it involves poisoning the province's wide-open spaces and passing the savings on to their customers. Totò is 13, and eager to take part in the community and opportunities offered by low-level drug dealing work. Pasquale works as a tailor, helping Camorra-linked businesses make couture knockoffs, and he's offered an opportunity that may leave him set for life or marked for death.