Review: Lo spietato
by Vittoria Scarpa
- Available on Netflix from 19 April, Renato De Maria’s latest film sees him directing Riccardo Scamarcio in the shoes of a yuppie criminal roaming the hedonistic city of 1980s Milan
This is the parable of a likeable criminal, from his vertiginous rise to his disastrous fall, taking in the robberies, the kidnappings, the cold-blooded killings and the copious quantities of drugs and beautiful women that characterised his life. It’s a reconstruction based upon the confessions of the individual concerned and delivered in the form of a long flashback stretching over three decades. A somewhat classic formula, you might say, except that Renato De Maria’s new film, eloquently intitled Lo spietato [+see also:
film profile], is by no means short on interesting elements and it doesn’t fail to entertain either. Loosely inspired by the Italian book, Manager Calibro 9, by Pietro Colaprico and Luca Fazzo - which recounts the tales of Mafia boss Saverio Morabito who became a police informant in the early 1990s, dealing a fatal blow to Milan’s ‘ndrangheta -, and written by the director himself in league with Valentina Strada and Federico Gnesini, this gangster comedy plays with the facts, loading them with film references (to the Scorsese of the Goodfellas years and to Italian crime movies of the 1970s especially) and personal memories.
Riccardo Scamarcio, increasingly at his ease in this type of role, is outstanding in the character of Santo Russo, a pleasure-seeking, social-climbing gangster at large in Milan during the economic boom of the 80s, who has aspirations of a more managerial nature and who applies the rules of capitalism to the world of crime (if there are workforce cutbacks to be made, get out your gun!). Having moved from Calabria as a child with his family to settle on the outskirts of Milan, he quickly learns how a southerner like him can make his way in the land of the “polenta eaters”. He puts together a small but determined gang (featuring Alessio Praticò and Alessandro Tedeschi) and initially focuses on robberies and kidnappings, before moving into construction by way of bribery and drugs trafficking. Russo even finds the time to get married to Mariangela (Sara Serraiocco) - a good, devoted woman from his village - before ending up in prison (on one of many occasions) and the wedding scene itself is great fun: he’s arrested in the church, right in front of the altar, while his wife, who’s already pregnant, does everything she can to get that ring on her finger before they take him away, in a desperate attempt to protect her reputation.
But it’s not only money that interests Santo; he’s also looking to gain entry to the best addresses in town. Consequently, when he meets the beautiful and refined French art dealer, Annabelle (Marie-Ange Casta), he takes her as his lover. This secures his introduction to the world of contemporary art and avant-guard performances, but the results are tragicomic to say the least, given Santo’s slightly more “down-to-earth” persona! Irony is one of the strongpoints of the film, together with the use of fast cutting and De Maria’s meticulous reconstruction of the period – the cars, the décor, the music, the outfits (“we raided the archives of Versace and Armani and toured the country in search of fashion collectors, with some surprising results”, explains the director, who previously shot a docufilm in 2015 on Italian outlaws who were active between the post-war period and Italy’s “Years of Lead” – 1969–1984 - intitled Italian Gangsters [+see also:
film profile]). Lo Spietato is a colourful film designed with the wider public in mind (it will be subtitled in 20 languages and dubbed in English for Netflix audiences), and an homage to genre cinema. It doesn’t look to reinvent anything; instead it seeks to entertain and amuse, and to provide audiences with at least as much enjoyment as was had by the film crew in the making of the film.
Shot over the course of six weeks and costing 4 million euros, Lo spietato is produced by BiBi Film with Rai Cinema and is co-produced by French outfit Indie Prod. It is backed by Canal+ and Cine+ and has received support from the Region of Lazio, as well as the Region of Puglia and the European Union. Following its event cinema release in Italian cinemas on 8-10 April courtesy of Nexo, it will be available on Netflix from 19 April.
(Translated from Italian)
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