Brutal, realistic and shocking but also compelling
Gomorrah Series Review
But you have to promise me something. Never trust anyone. Ever. Not even me.Gomorrah started life as a 2006 book by Roberto Saviano and is written in an investigative journalistic fashion recounting stories of the Camorra: a Neapolitan criminal organisation largely unknown due to the higher profile of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra. It was, and remains, a huge success and was the subject of an equally successful 2008 film of the same name. Gomorrah The Series, takes the text as a starting point and largely forges its own path with its own characters, but keeps to the spirit of the novel and to the idea. Basically Camorra, the name given to the organised crime clans that proliferate around Naples and Caserta, has a very different structure to that found in the Sicilian mafia. The latter is very pyramid shaped in its hierarchical structure compared to the former, which is far more street gang orientated, making policing it extremely difficult; taking out one head just leaves the way for another to take his place. In this regard the show is far more ‘The Wire’ in its presentation than that of ‘The Sopranos’.In fact it owes a lot to 'The Wire' but where it does differ is in terms of its story structure, this must be the Italian influence. Series tend to have multiple story lines running throughout episodes as you follow characters through their respective toils; Gomorra tends to spend one episode per story point, or with one character as their plot unfolds; this means you get extremely involved with that part of the story (like chapters of a book) and when seen as a whole, it makes for extremely compelling viewing. The two seasons so far are part of the same continuing story development: the systematic breakdown and build-up of two warring clans seen through the eyes of disillusioned foot soldier Ciro di Marzio, who uses underhanded tactics, back-stabbing and scheming, to bring about his own rise in a crazed lust for power. The show is brutal, realistic, shocking, compelling and thoroughly entertaining; it looks incredible, is acted wonderfully, paced expertly and quickly becomes essential viewing.
Picture QualityBoth series are presented in their broadcast ratio of widescreen 1.85:1 at a resolution of 1080i/50 using the AVC codec and are region locked to B.
The stylised picture manages to look both striking and detailed, from close up skin texture to distant city sky lines. Clothing has a discernible weave, clutter around desks is tangible, the ghastly décor of the Savastano homestead is crisp and clean, while the decay of the slums is grimy and sad.
The colour has been heavily desaturated leaving an orange/blue type palette; this stylised digital grading still gives reasonably vibrant colouring and while the primaries are de-saturated to a degree, none are washed, or bleed, though there is a feeling of ‘thinness’ to the image. Blues still remain strong with only the slightest evidence of banding when Ciro is in the ocean.
Brightness and contrast are set to give very strong blacks; there are plenty of night shots, or dark dingy areas, but the blacks remains deep with only the barest hint of noise rarely seen. Shadow detail is available when called for but for the most part blacks are impenetrable adding to the depth of the image.
Digitally there are no compression issues, no edge enhancement or anything else to spoil the view, while the original source is in pristine condition.
Season 1 is desaturated, Season 2 has had primary push
This season has also had some digital grading, but unlike the first’s desaturation, season two has had primary push to give a real sense of vibrancy and lushness to the image. Detail is just as strong, with clear skin detail, whilst the grime and filth of the urban decay is stark and foreboding. Clothing has strong weave, cars gleam, sand on the beaches looks clean enough to run your toes through while the décor has had no improvement!
Colours are rich and vivid with all the primaries being strong, bold and shining off the screen. Sets, and indeed night shots, are lit very differently this time around with huge swathes of colour; blues and reds come off particularly well. Skin tones are far more natural as well. Skies look gorgeous (particularly beaches) while the trees, flowers and jungle bush are lush.
Contrast and brightness are set to give wonderful blacks, punch and depth are easy words to bandy about, so let’s say oomph and vigour. There is the occasional sense of 3D pop and black levels add so much verve you feel you are inside the screen. Shadow detail is around when called for, levels are impenetrable when needed and even when light is very low there are no instances of noise or murk.
Digitally there are no instances of compression issues or edge enchantment, I did spot a couple of instances of banding, but it was momentary, while the original source is pristine.
Sound QualitySeason 1
The Italian LPCM 2.0 stereo track is nicely separated and has a few good effects (cars, weather, and street hustle and bustle) while remaining strong and focused. Bass is well realised, pretty deep when needed, especially in the various night clubs with their music, though gun shots and cars also benefit. The score is reasonably wide in the mix. Dialogue is clear and precise and never lost. The subtitles are a clear white font towards the bottom of the screen, grammatically correct, if occasionally too literal, and hang around with plenty of time to read.
LPCM 2.0 Stereo on Season 1, DTS-HD MA 5.1 on Season 2
Upgraded to DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround for this season and it really opens up the sound stage. The surrounds really add to the sense of being there; whether you are at the beach with the waves crashing against the sand, or in the central complex of a housing project with kids playing, doors slamming, shouts and vehicles echoing around, or a car radio with the music blaring through. Dialogue is clear, precise and natural sounding, well layered into the mix and never lost. The enigmatic, ethereal score now vibrates front and back adding to the eeriness of certain visuals. Bass is strong and tight with several LF effects spread throughout adding some deep rumbles when needed. The subtitles are an even cleaner white font, grammatically correct (and with English spelling) and are not quite so literal, i.e. take into account colloquialisms, and hang around for the right amount of time.
ExtrasSeason 1 – Disc 4
Making of Feature – A brief 30 minute making of documentary with plenty of interviews with cast and crew about how the series came about, aspects of filming in ‘real’ locations, stunt work, ethos of the characters and the dedication of the actors. Brief but with a lot of information packed in – a ‘real’ making of rather than promotional fluff and completely comprised of filmed behind the scenes; in Italian with English subtitles.
Extras are light, but add to the package
Season 2 – Disc 3
Interviews – There are 13 minutes of ‘interviews’ with the principle cast and directors of the show who spend a couple of minutes each (with an unseen, or heard, interviewer) discussing aspects of the show and their input into it. Interviewed are: actors Marco D'Amore, Salvatore Esposito, Marco Palvetti, Fortunato Cerlino, Cristiana Dell'Anna and Cristina Donadio; directors Stefano Sollima, Francesca Comencini, Claudio Giovannesi and Claudio Cupellini.
Behind the Scenes – Is 20 minutes of genuine, candid, camera pointing at with no finesse, behind the scenes footage; a few minutes is spent with each of the above interviewees while they prepare of a shot, are in make up or filming, or as in the case of the directors, preparing for shots, blocking, conversing with technicians etc. The final few minutes are dedicated to overviews of the larger location shoots.
Blu-ray VerdictGomorrah The Series follows Ciro di Marzio, a foot soldier who is disillusioned with the way his clan is run and when his mentor is killed on a foolhardy retribution attack uses his connections, cunning and schemes to drive a wedge between the family and other clans to facilitate his own rise to power – by any means necessary. In terms of tone the show owes a huge debt to ‘The Wire’ in its portrayal of inner city squallier and drug use, but tells its story very differently: taking entire episodes to centre on certain aspects/characters rather than have overlapping story threads, which becomes very compelling viewing.
Quickly becomes compelling viewing
As a Blu-ray set, this complete Season 1 & 2 package from Arrow is pretty good; the picture for both seasons is excellent – the first is desaturated, but well detailed with very strong blacks, while the second is graded with bold, vivid colours and even stronger blacks. The first has an LPCM stereo sound track, which is clear, precise and wide; while the second is DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround, with very expansive, strong bass and very natural sounding. Extras are a little limited, but do help to fill out the package. Recommended.
You can buy Gomorrah Seasons 1 & 2 on Blu-ray here
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