Dir. Steffano Sollima (2015)
A gangster wants to turn Rome into the new Las Vegas but failed to learn the lessons of mob-controlled Sin City.
American politics have been insane the last couple of years, the bipartisan days seemingly long gone as corrupt politicians are only outnumbered by stupid ones. Those who aren't working directly with criminals are committing the crimes themselves; some apparently do both. It's difficult as an American to imagine a more reckless and dangerous political structure, but that's only because we haven't directly experienced the ruling class of other countries like Italy, where those that the general public knows to be involved directly with the Mafia end up running the entire country and no one seems to care in the slightest. Suburra, named for a region of Ancient Rome that today means a crime-infested area, deals with these crooked politicos and their underworld counterparts as they attempt to turn modern-day Rome into the second coming of Las Vegas by allowing the suburban areas to be developed by the wealthy mob and the politicians they control.
A neon-noir that dishes out heaping helpings of brutal violence with its bureaucratic intrigue, Suburra follows the lives of multiple characters as they intertwine before an impending government shutdown. The mob wants the politicians in their pockets to vote for the Suburban Renewal Project, which will enable them to revitalize the Roman waterfront in their image. They are taking money from the Church to pay for politics in the hopes that they can control the new city made up of strip clubs, casinos, and gangland hangouts. When one of the mob leaders' brothers is killed after trying to blackmail one of the party leaders in charge, the boss decides to seek revenge no matter the cost. This threatens to collapse the entire deal and bring the whole house of cards down in a cacophony of blood.
While it's an odd film to be released by Unearthed Films, Suburra is a fantastic Italian throwback to some of the country's most famous directors. There are shades of Fellini and Sorrentino with a color palette that is all Michael Mann, a grimy and bleak backdrop that is reminiscent of Cronenberg's Eastern Promises, and a realistic bent towards violence that feels like Denis Villeneuve's Sicario. This last one shouldn't be surprising, as director Steffano Sollima was tapped to directed the sequel Sicario: Day of the Soldado. It's well deserved, as Suburra is a fantastically crafted crime thriller with a lot to say about the world as it really is behind closed doors.
Unearthed has been releasing some films lately that aren't strictly gore films, and this is the second of that line that I've reviewed (with the first being The Grand Tour). They're both fantastic films, and I'm all for it if Unearthed Films is trying to branch out from a collection of films that won't ever be watched by general film fans. As a collector of physical media, I highly encourage others like me to seek these films out, especially ones like this that aren't available through other means. Suburra is an excellent crime thriller filled with apprehension and ruthless violence, and if you're a fan of directors like Mann or Steven Soderbergh, this one is a must see.
Who this movie is for: Crime thriller fans, Mafia movie lovers, Real estate developers
Bottom line: While this isn't the usual type of movie that we've come to expect from Unearthed Films, Suburra is a fantastic crime drama that is well worth the price of admission. It's a dreary depiction of the intersection between the criminal element and the political one, and it's an excellent slow-burn with a bloodthirsty payoff. Even if you're just a Mafia movie fan, this is a film that should be in your watchlist. Preorder it from Unearthed Films if you're as big a fan of physical media as I am.