Black Souls

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO -

Black Souls, crime drama, not rated, in Ital­ian with sub­ti­tles, The Screen, 3.5 chiles

This pow­er­ful crime fam­ily drama tells the story of the three Car­bone broth­ers: Luigi (Marco Leonardi), Rocco (Pep­pino Maz­zotta), and Lu­ciano (Fabrizio Fer­ra­cane). Lu­ciano lives the sim­ple life of a goat herder and farmer, while his two broth­ers are in­volved in the in­ter­na­tional drug trade. Lu­ciano’s son Leo (Giuseppe Fumo) cares lit­tle for his fa­ther’s busi­ness and is in­creas­ingly drawn into the world of money, power, and the cos­mopoli­tan life his un­cles rep­re­sent. When Leo launches an armed as­sault on a bar owned by the Car­bones’ long-stand­ing ri­vals, who mur­dered the Car­bone pa­tri­arch years be­fore, he sets off a se­ries of tragic but in­evitable events. The Car­bones hail from a small moun­tain town in ru­ral Cal­abria in south­ern Italy, but the en­ter­pris­ing crim­i­nal broth­ers now live in Mi­lan. Hot-headed Leo’s ac­tions bring them, re­luc­tantly, back to at­tempt to fix the sit­u­a­tion.

Black Souls is based on Gioacchino Cri­aco’s novel of the same name. The film’s Mafiosos are inspired by mem­bers of the real-life ’Ndrangheta, a pow­er­ful crime syn­di­cate op­er­at­ing through­out ru­ral re­gions of Cal­abria. Tra­di­tion and cus­tom are taken se­ri­ously by the Car­bones and their ri­vals as well. There’s an al­most for­mal re­spect among the en­e­mies, whose mem­o­ries are long and with whom re­venge be­comes a mat­ter of honor and loy­alty. The sense that this is how jus­tice is has been han­dled for gen­er­a­tions is taken for granted. This is the story of peo­ple from a place in which an older code, where hi­er­ar­chies of power be­gin and end with fam­ily, still holds sway.

The sense of im­pend­ing vi­o­lence haunts the film as the story un­folds, but Black Souls is not a gra­tu­itous shoot-’em-up. It is a di­a­logue-driven drama not un­like The God­fa­ther (a film to which it has drawn com­par­isons), where con­spir­ing crim­i­nals seal their ri­vals’ fates with a sim­ple nod of the head, or a know­ing glance, and fam­i­lies are torn apart by mis­placed allegiances. Its pace is lan­guorous at times. And yet, the vi­o­lence that does oc­cur is shock­ing in its ca­sual na­ture.

Black Souls is a finely acted, taut, and grip­ping drama with a solid nar­ra­tive that draws you in. As it builds in emo­tional in­ten­sity, it runs to­ward a deadly con­clu­sion, leav­ing you with the sense that, in some re­gions of the world, vi­o­lence is a tra­di­tion from which there’s no es­cape. — Michael Abatemarco

Tough love: fore­ground, Giuseppe Fumo and Fabrizio Fer­ra­cane

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