Review by Ken Burke
Black Souls (Francesco Munzi, 2014)
In southern Italy a local Mafia family run by 2 brothers confronts local rivals when their nephew—son of a goat farmer with no interest in his siblings’ activities—creates an offense leading to tensions, then physical confrontations between the 2 clans, as each struggles to enforce their control of the region; for a gangster story this is low-key but simmeringly-impactful.
Take care, curious readers, for plot spoilers gallop rampantly throughout the Two Guys’ insightful reviews. Therefore, be warned, beware, and read on when you’re ready to be transported to … wherever we end up. Please protect your eyes from the dazzling brilliance.
What Happens: In Black Souls (Amine Nere), an Italian film set in rural Calabria, the southern-most “toe” region of Italy’s boot-shaped-peninsula, there are 2 rival crime families—part of the larger, very successful ‘Ndrangheta organization—pushing for power in the town of Africo, located at the toe’s tip within the province of Reggio Calabria. The folks we’re most concerned with are the Carbone family, headed by brothers Rocco (Peppino Mazzotta) and Luigi (Marco Leonardi), although their operations are normally run from Milan in the far north of the country where they have quicker access to other European cities to make large drug deals with suppliers from Latin America, as we witness in the opening scenes. However, chief hood Rocco, a no-nonsense-businessman-type, is appalled that Luigi still shows aspects of a country thug, as we see with a diversionary stop where the more gregarious sibling and 2 of his henchmen steal a couple of goats for a dinner (tossing their furry skins into the local river). Luigi also serves as an inspiration for their nephew, Leo (Giuseppe Fumo), who’s much more attracted to his uncles' somewhat-high-roller-lifestyle than to his father’s, Luciano (Fabrizio Ferracane), preference for goat farming, as the elder brother has nothing but distain for the activities of his criminal relatives. To prove himself as an aspiring “family” soldier, Leo shoots up a local bar owned by the rival Barreca clan which requires the mobster Carbones to travel south in order to clear things up, although all that happens is sudden escalation when Barreca gunmen gun down Luigi one night, which brings no sympathy from the local police, likely disgusted from the inter-familial-warfare (or on the take from Barreca). Despite Rocco’s edicts not to escalate the situation, Leo plans to kill the elder Barreca but is shot himself, probably because he was ratted out to bodyguards by a guy he though to be his coke-snorting-close-friend, likely trying to ingratiate himself with whom he perceives to be the stronger of the feuding factions. That’s all that Luciano can take (especially with the memory of his father being a victim of the mob's violent actions) so he suddenly whips out a pistol, killing Rocco and a couple of his bodyguards before the film’s abrupt ending, although we have a strong sense that suicide is his next act.
Intrigued, Mike travels from Montana to Oregon to interview Chris (turns out he’s a long-time-fan of Finkel’s work) who promises him an exclusive story which Mike pumps up into a book, netting him a $250,000 advance from HarperCollins (somewhat undercutting Mike’s noble contentions that “The truth always matters” and “Everybody deserves to have their story heard”). However, Chris’ testimony that his wife killed 2 of the kids, tried to smother the 3rd before he accidently killed her in a rage (she was apparently distraught over his desperate inability to provide for them) becomes increasingly suspicious, so much so that Mike tries to turn over evidence to the police who refuse it because of his ongoing credibility gap, although justice is served when the jury returns guilty verdicts along with a death sentence. The book goes on to be a success prior to Chris privately admitting to Mike that he instigated all of the murders, so Mike’s career is revived even as we’re left with the ethical question of what he may have lost in this process (we also learn that while Mike never wrote for the NY Times, Chris has had several of his Death Row writings published by them).
|Jonah Hill and James Franco help me "phone it in" with |
my recycled Musical Metaphor
|Leo and Luciano (foreground) hope to learn |
something about crime from reruns of Miami Vice
P.S. Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.