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