Black Souls ✮✮✮
Rocco and His Brothers
by Glenn Lovell
Francesco Munzi, who has heretofore dealt with Italy’s growing immigrant problem, now turns his camera on a long-simmering blood feud ‒ and traces the source of gangland violence between families to the unresolved issues within the families themselves.
“Black Souls,” from a novel by Gioacchino Criacco, is a moody modern-day Mafioso drama about three very different brothers who deal with the ramifications of an act of vandalism in very different ways. When Luigi Carbone (Marco Leonardi), a Milanese drug lord, hears that nephew Leo (Giuseppe Fumo) has shot up a tavern back home he congratulates the boy for “commanding some respect.” The more circumspect Rocco (Peppino Mazzotta), who runs a shady construction business, says not to egg the boy on, that renewed tensions will only place a spotlight on the family.
Luciano (Fabrizio Ferracane), the eldest and Leo’s father, is a goat herder who still lives in the crumbling family home in the south. As a boy he witnessed the ambush murder of their father ‒ but instead of vowing to even the score, he distanced himself from his brothers and their “businesses.” Withdrawn and morose, he begrudgingly opts for compromise: his son should apologize to the local Mafioso boss and everyone should get on with their lives.
With the three brothers taking different stances on the incident ‒ the more flamboyant Luigi quickly forges an alliance with another crime boss ‒ the family is left exposed. Not helping matter, loose cannon Leo defies his father and, as things begin to escalate, takes matters into his own hands ‒ with tragic consequences.
If you show up expecting a bullet-riddled crime saga like “Gomorrah” or “Goodfellas,” you’ll be disappointed in this import (in Italian with English subtitles). Munzi builds slowly, inexorably, to an ending that’s as shocking as it is inevitable. He’s more interested in character development and offhand gibes over pasta and wine than he is in vendettas and shootouts. Indeed, he often frames shots so that we don’t see a body or a blood-splattered crime scene. This is his way of reminding us that in today’s Italy the Carbones and their like are their own worst enemies. They don’t need to be taken down by longtime rivals or the polizia, shown to be ineffectual at best; they’ll eventually implode from years of festering recriminations.
BLACK SOULS ✮✮✮ With Marco Leonardi, Peppino Mazzotta, Fabrizio Ferracane, Giuseppe Fumo. Directed by Francesco Munzi; scripted by Munzi, Maurizio Braucci, Fabrizio Ruggirello from Gioacchino Criacco novel. 108 min. Unrated (would be PG-13 for adult subject matter, violence)