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Review - Suburra

By midlandsmovies, Jul 6 2016 06:04PM

Suburra (2016) Dir. Stefano Sollima

Based on the novel by Carlo Bonini and Giancarlo De Cataldo this Italian neo-noir has soundtrack echoes of Drive and a seedy night time plot of politics and crime in Rome. The title comes from the name of a suburb of Ancient Rome and follows an Italian MP Filippo Malgradi who is involved in a real estate project complicated by his close relations with a local crime boss. After a sex and drugs night with underage prostitutes, one dies of an overdose and Malgradi leaves it to the surviving call-girl along with her gypsy money lender friend Spandino to get rid of the body into the Tiber.

Malgradi is played well by Pierfrancesco Favino who has starred in Ron Howard’s Rush and as well as the director’s Angels & Demons also set in Rome. His menacing screen presence contrasts with a sleazy vulnerability of a wayward man making the wrong choices at the wrong time. A convoluted plot then sees various crime bosses attempting to waive debts by seizing property and Spadino blackmailing Malgradi as he threatens to reveal his secrets.

A solid European thriller, the film suffers from far too many characters and keeping tabs on their motivations and allegiances would have been easier with a more straightforward narrative. Editing is slightly haphazard reflecting the fractious nature of alliances made by the gangs in the city and the gangs in parliament.

As revenge spirals out of control from both sides, bad-tempered rivalries across the city are settled by money, drugs, murder, violence or “debt recovery” in the way only Italians can.

“It’s dangerous to even cross the street in this city” says one character (a literal fact I found out on my trip there) but this great line of dialogue sums up the film’s focus. Why resolve your differences in a well-mannered (and legal) fashion when you can simply kill, main or extort others into seeing things your way.

Everyone is a criminal, everyone’s father is a criminal and everyone gets criminals to sort out their criminal business. Joking aside the film lacks character development in favour of plot but the plot lacks any coherence so when all your main players are unsympathetic you ultimately care less about the consequences to anyone. Jumping from low level lackeys via prostitutes and politicians, the film is clearly unsure of the protagonist and the overbearing electronic soundtrack by M83 frankly (and I know it’s not professional saying this) got on my tits.

The films skirts around the political affairs of the streets and the state and fans of A Most Violent Year (our review here) may find some satisfaction with Subarra’s similar themes. Funded by Netflix this is a film that shows the new production kid on the block will take chances but its rather uninteresting spotlight on property planning (with added violence) will be frustrating for most audiences.


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