DVD Review: Suburra ‘A Fascinating and Complex Crime Drama’

Suburra is an Italian crime thriller set in the heart of the political and criminal powerhouses and a treat for anyone who is a fan of crime movies.

Set over the course of seven days in November 2011, the death of an underage prostitute ripples through the criminal world of Rome, affecting a deal to turn the waterfront area of Ostia into the Las Vegas of Italy. This death leads to involvement a prominent Italian Parliamentarian (Pierfrancesco Favino) and a potential war between two crime factions one led by “Number 8” (Alessandro Adami), the other being the Anacleti family.

suburra - violence

Suburra was directed by Stefano Sollima – a man who has already directed two highly regarded crime TV shows in Italy, Romanzo Criminale and Gomorrah and is set to direct the Sicario sequel Soldado. Suburra could also have been a TV series because it was so dense with plot, converging storylines and character that it seemed like an HBO series condensed into two hours. Suburra was based on a novel which explains the various stories and how they came together. It’s only the short time span of a week that allows Suburra be told in a movie. Suburra is going to be followed by a Netflix series next year which would be fitting considering the world that had been built.

Suburra is a complicated movie that would require repeated viewing to truly appreciate all the character relations and the various political and criminal dealings – yet the film is still engaging and if the movie makes some people compelled to watch it again, the filmmakers have certainly done something right. It was amazing how all the characters and storylines are connected, even the storyline involving Seba (Elio Germano) – a man who is forced to pay his father’s debts to the Anacleti family – and has to play a part in the Anacleti attempts to muscle into the Ostia deal. This is fantastic screenwriting and directing because it made everything naturally fit together.

Suburra starts in the Vatican as priests discuss rumors that the Pope is about to resign. This part of the movie felt the most tacked on but it is placed in the beginning to establish Italy is on the verge of religious, financial and political crisis and gives Suburra a similarity to the Brad Pitt crime movie Killing Them Softly – a film that used the 2008 Financial Crisis as a backdrop to a crisis affecting the New Orleans criminal world. However, Killing Them Softly was too willing to hammer the comparisons of the Financial Crisis with its story to the point it became boring and treated the audience likes idiots – Suburra at least knew that it needed to tell a story first and smartly kept the political and religious analogies in the background and let audience members come up with their own conclusions. The death of the prostitute could be seen as an example of sleaze and corruption affecting Italian politics or simply as a horrific incident that ignites the events of the movie.

suburra - nightclub

As well as setting Suburra during a period of crisis the movie has a theme of modernism vs. traditionalism. There is the traditional architecture of the eternal city while the interiors are modern – whether it be offices or nightclubs. This also ties into the storyline of Ostia being redeveloped but by corrupt means. The Anacelti are an old Mafia family but dysfunctional: the kids run rampant, their home is crumbling, and the head of the family is more concerned about respect and honor than the criminal enterprise. The heavily tattooed Number 8 is a modern criminal – someone who has a small crew, only loosely linked to the Mafia and uses brutal violence to get his way, but can see the big picture. The head of Mafia, The Samurai (Claudio Amendola) acts as the mediator between the conflicting factions. He was more a middle-aged businessman than a gangster, yet Amendola gave the character a calm authority, and his everyman look gives him the ability to walk in high-end establishments or wait around a cafe as people come to deal with him.

Suburra is a slick crime drama that was able to combine its complicated plotting and numerous storylines while also being a compelling movie because of the interconnected plot. It covers a lot of ground in a short space of time and stands with other quality euro-thrillers.

Special Features: The DVD comes with a three minute featurette looking at the making of Suburra and the trailer.

Amazon.co.uk (DVD)

Amazon.co.uk (Blu-ray)

Kieran Freemantle
Kieran Freemantle
I am a film critic/writer based in the UK, writing for Entertainment Fuse, Rock n Reel Reviews, UK Film Review and Meniscus Sunrise. I have worked on film shoots. I support West Ham and Bath Rugby. Follow me on Twitter @FreemantleUK.