The film opens with the murder of gangsters relaxing in a tanning salon. This shooting occurs between clans of the Di Lauro Camorra syndicate which rule Scampia-Secondigliano, and triggers the so-called Faida di Scampia (Scampia feud) which is the backdrop of the entire movie. The Faida erupts between members of the Di Lauro syndicate and the so-called scissionisti (separatists), who are led by Raffaele Amato, brother of two of the men killed in the opening scene.
The film intertwines five separate stories of people whose lives are touched by organized crime.
Don Ciro (Gianfelice Imparato) is a timid middleman who distributes money to the families of imprisoned Di Lauro clan members. After the feud develops within the clan, he is ambushed by a pair of angry scissionisti during a delivery. Fearing for his life, he later offers to defect to their side. They refuse his offer, and tell Ciro that he has to "pay" for his life by selling some of his former associates. He leads them to the location where he is given the money for distribution. The pair raid the place, killing everyone but Ciro, and take the money. Ciro quietly walks off to an uncertain future.
Totò (Salvatore Abruzzese) is a 13-year-old grocery delivery boy who witnesses some drug dealers abandon a bag of drugs and a gun while evading the police at Sette palazzi in Scampia. He returns the items to the gang, who take him in. His initiation in an underground cavern consists of him being shot while wearing a bulletproof vest as a test of courage. As the feud intensifies, families in the neighborhood whose loyalties are suspect are ordered to move out or suffer violence; Totò's fellow gang members receive similar threats. Later, while hanging out with his gang in the streets of Scampia, one of his gang is killed in a drive-by. The gang members decide to stand their ground and exact violent retribution by selecting a woman, Maria (Maria Nazionale), as their next victim, as her son has joined a clan of Secondigliano scissionisti. Totò, who has delivered groceries to Maria, is forced to lure her out of her apartment, where his comrades execute her.
Roberto (Carmine Paternoster) is a graduate who works in waste management. His boss, Franco (Toni Servillo) provides a low-cost toxic waste disposal service that allows northern industrialists to dispose of materials like chromium and asbestos in the countryside of southern Italy. Franco and Roberto orchestrate the illegal disposal of the waste at abandoned quarries and other environmentally-sensitive sites. During one such operation, a drum of toxic chemicals is accidentally spilled on a driver. Franco refuses to call an ambulance, and hires children to drive the trucks when the workers refuse to continue their work. Later, Franco and Roberto meet a family of farmers who, desperate to extinguish their debts, decide to allow the burial of chemical substances in their countryside. An elderly farmer gifts Roberto a basket of peaches, but Franco later tells him to throw them away because they are contaminated. Roberto then decides to quit his job and tells Franco he cannot bring himself to poison the earth, to which Franco says that he shouldn't think he is the better man, because thanks to the actions of people like them Italy was able to enter the European Union, solving problems others had caused. Roberto walks alone on a desolate countryside road.
Pasquale (Salvatore Cantalupo) is an haute couture tailor who works for Iavarone (Gigio Morra), a garment factory owner with ties to the Camorra. Pasquale takes a night-job training Chinese garment workers. As they are competing with Camorra-controlled firms, the Chinese drive him to and from work in the trunk of their car. His secret work is discovered nonetheless, and his Chinese associates are killed in a drive-by. He survives the attack, but resigns his job. Later, working as a truck driver, he is in a transport café where he spots Scarlett Johansson on TV wearing one of his dresses. He smiles wryly as he drives away.
Marco and Ciro aka Sweet Pea
Marco (Marco Macor) and Ciro (Ciro Petrone) are two young wannabe-gangsters who try to operate their own small racket independently of the local clan. Impressed by mafia portrayals from Hollywood movies, they quote lines and spontaneously reenact scenes from Scarface in Walter Schiavone's villa while dropping references to Tony Montana, Miami, and Colombians. Their first score is robbing African immigrants during a drug purchase at the famous Hotel Boomerang, Castel Volturno. The word of the incident gets to the local mob chieftain Giovanni (Giovanni Venosa), who summons them and warns them under threat of violence not to repeat such behavior in the future. Ignoring him completely, they spy Camorra gangsters hiding a stash of weapons. They steal the weapons and amuse themselves by firing off rounds by the banks of a Regi Lagni canal estuary in the marshland. Once they run out of money, they use their guns to rob a video arcade, and spend their stolen funds at a strip club. The gangsters, angered, find them and threaten to kill them if they don't return the weapons within a day. The pair prove stubborn. Zio Vittorio (Vittorio Russo), one of the local gangsters approaches them in a bar with an offer to come work for him. He offers them €10,000 if they return the weapons and murder Peppe O'Cavallaro, in fact uncle Bernardino (Bernardino Terracciano). They accept the contract, which turns out to be a trap, as they are ambushed and killed by Giovanni, Bernardino, Vittorio and others at the location of their supposed target, an abandoned beach resort next to Regi Lagni canal estuary. The last scene shows their dead bodies being carried away by a front end loader.
Gomorrah has received widespread critical acclaim. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 91% based on reviews from 137 critics, with an average score of 7.7/10. Metacritic gave the film a weighted score of 87/100, based on 30 critiques, which it ranks as "universal acclaim". In reviewing Garrone's film based on the book, Christoph Huber wrote: "With its interest in moving beyond the categories of novel or non-fiction, Saviano's work has been identified as part of a heterogeneous strain of national literature, subsumed as the New Italian Epic. A term that certainly isn't disgraced by Gomorrah, the film."
The film appeared on several critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2008.2nd - Josh Rosenblatt, The Austin Chronicle
5th - Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times (tied with Happy-Go-Lucky)
5th - Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly
5th - Marc Savlov, The Austin Chronicle
6th - A.O. Scott, The New York Times
6th - Wesley Morris, The Boston Globe
7th - Marjorie Baumgarten, The Austin Chronicle
10th - Empire
The movie premiered in North America on September 7, 2008 at the Toronto International Film Festival. It was nominated for the Palme d'Or and won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008. It won the ARRI-Zeiss Award at the Munich Film Festival. The film was selected by the Associazione Nazionale Industrie Cinematografiche Audiovisive e Multimediali to represent Italy in contention for Best Foreign Language Film at the 81st Academy Awards. Despite the earlier success at Cannes, and defying expectations, it failed to be short-listed. On December 11, Gomorra was given a Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Film. Gomorra won five awards at the 2008 European Film Awards, including Best European Film in Copenhagen on December 6, 2008.
The film received seven awards at L'accademia del Cinema Italiano 2009 David di Donatello Awards. It was also nominated for the Grand Prix of the Belgian Syndicate of Cinema Critics.
The film, following the book upon which it is based, portrays events identifiably similar to actual historical ones; for example, the Scampia feud. In the film's credits, the filmmakers thank the districts of Scampia and Torre del Greco, as well as the Carabinieri of nearby Boscoreale: these three suburban areas around the Bay of Naples feature cityscapes appropriate for filming this story.
The scene at the truck stop where Pasquale sees Scarlett Johansson on TV wearing one of the tailor's dresses is based on a portion of the book where Angelina Jolie wore a counterfeit dress to the Oscars. Garrone could not obtain that footage from the Academy and was forced to buy footage of Johansson at the Venice Film Festival in 2006 - even though press reports indicate hers was a vintage gown.
- "Ma si vene stasera" - Alessio
- "La Nostra Storia" - Raffaello
- "Brava gente" - Nino d'Angelo
- "Must Pray" - Pieter Vercampt
- "Macchina 50" - Rosario Miraggio
- "Ragione e sentimento" - Maria Nazionale
- "Un giornio d'Amore" - Daniele Stefani
- "Sadeness (Part 1)" - Enigma
- "Esageratamente" - Anthony
- "O' schiavo e o' re" - Nino d'Angelo
- "Xiao Cheng Gu Shi" - Teresa Teng
- "Viento 'e mare (feat. Maria Nazionale)" - Matthew Herbert
- "L'amica di mia moglie" - Tommy Riccio
- "Finchè 'o sole me vo'" - Maria Nazionale
- "Herculaneum" - Robert Del Naja