The era of the Savastano clan, who once undisputedly reigned over north Naples, seems to be coming to an end. What lies ahead now is the largest ever power vacuum in the history of the "Camorra" - a coalition of crime families in and around the urban backstreets of Naples where crime is rife and life is cheap.
The king, Don Pietro Savastano, has abdicated, only to be replaced by his son Genny Savastano - at least momentarily. Although still having loyal soldiers, the Savastanos see themselves opposed by their once loyal right-hand man Ciro "the Immortal" Di Marzio, who is not the only one working on ending their bloody reign.
The sinister drug baron, Conte, is back in town building alliances and there are two new contenders for the throne of north Naples. The only certainty about the future - nothing is certain.
Gomorrah is also available on Blu-ray, but we're reviewing the DVD here. No matter which format you choose, from the moment the opening credits start, the image quality is head crackingly good. With a fantastic moody colour pallet, the range colours on offer really help to highlight the depressing deprivation (and some dodgy decorating) of the Naples suburbs. Even the dark scenes, of which there's many a dimly lit apartment, carpark or office, are handled with ease with little or no sign of artifacting or other picture imperfections.
The audio is provided via a 448kbps 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack. Although I thought the dialogue was a little muffled at times, the musical score and the ambient musical effects are spot on with some good stereo steerage whilst the dialogue is firmly fixed to the center channel. Although heavily dialogue based, there's the occasional use of the surround channels for the ambient effects. These are especially effective during the exterior scenes such as the echoes of conversations in the many high-rise apartments or the crashing waves on the beach. Cracking stuff.
As with the French production of The Disappearance if you're not a native speaker, in this case Italian, then you're going to have to rely on the subtitles. And unless you're a fluent Italian speaker you're probably going to need them too - my better half speaks some Italian and, because they were speaking so fast, she was having trouble understanding what they were saying! N3ever the less, after doing some research, it appears that Naples has quite a stark type of dialect which can make it difficult for even the Italians to understand. I guess it's a similar issue to the English language and the near unfathomable Geordie accent of Newcastle...
The menu system is hardly going to win awards in the design department - with Episode Selection the only options available across the four discs. But at least the menu is scored with the programme theme music and there's a small amount of animation to keep you interested as you decide on which episode to watch. Fortunately, if you can't decide, there's a "Play All" option too.
The extras are to be found on the forth disc - Interviews and a Behind-the-scenes featurette. Unsurprisingly, the thirteen minute Interview with the cast and crew is in Italian, but with English subtitles. The interview with the cast is interesting enough as they talk about their character, but make sure you watch after the episodes otherwise you'll get a few plot spoilers. I just hope the cast recorded their interviews straight off the set and are still in their costumes, otherwise they may have a few tricky questions to answer.
Next up is the twenty minute Behind-the-scenes featurette. Unfortunately, I got bored after about two minutes as the feature is basically made up of somebody wandering around the various sets and filming the cast getting their hair brushed, dabbed with makeup, eating food and generally looking pensive or moody whilst the crew stare into screens and occasionally laugh. Still, it's does exactly what it says on the tin.
It's just a great pity that there's no season one recap for those of us who didn't see any of the last series - which, given that episode one kicks right off from where the season one finale left off, makes life a little confusing for the uninitiated. Mind you, if you watch the Interview extra you may gleam a little extra detail, albeit at the cost of spoliers.
Set in Naples in Italy, the home of the Camorra crime family, the series is based on the international bestselling book by Roberto Saviano who exposed the Camorra mafia syndicate. The outcome of these revelations in the real-life tell-all book is the rather unsurprising fact that Roberto ended up living under police protection for eight years after the Italian Minister of the Interior granted him a permanent police escort.
What makes Gomorrah stand out from other series such as The Sopranos or The Wire is that it doesn't stand on ceremony - it gets down and dirty by highlighting some of the more gruesome and brutal goings on within the Mafia organisations where, in their endless lust for power, bloody violence rules and life is shockingly cheap. It certainly goes some way to dispell the mythology (mainly thanks to the likes of the Godfather) of a kind-hearted mafia, governed by a group of soft-talking men in expensive smart suits who, with a heavy heart, order an occasional knee-capping or murder. No, things are brutal.
Unlike the vast majority of US crime related television series, Gomorrah is not scared to shock the viewer and nobody appears to be safe from being killed or seriously injured. Put it this way, the show's script readings must have been interesting to sit in on as quite a few people were probably advised not to stake their mortgages on their role in the show. There's no such thing as a "regular" on Gomorrah.
Another cracking released for Arrow's "Noir" label, Gomorrah can be best compared as being something like Italy's answer to Breaking Bad, but with more Bells and Whistles. And subtitles. Although there's no release date as yet, a third and fourth series has been confirmed by Sky (one of the principle producers). So, if you haven't had your complete fix of Gomorrah, you'll be able to continue watching the series evolve. And one thing is certain, you can be sure things are going to be bloody...
- Behind the scenes