Song of Napoli is a contemporary Italian gangster comedy that starts off promisingly, but looses steam as it goes along. Following the travails of a police pianist forced to go undercover in a local boy band, it fizzles where it should pop and barely makes it across the finishing line.
Reviewed by Drew Ninnis.
Director: Antonio Manetti, Marco Manetti.
Screenplay: Giampaolo Morelli, Antonio Manetti, Marco Manetti, and Michelangelo La Neve.
Runtime: 114 minutes.
Cast: Alessandro Roja, Giampaolo Morelli, Serena Rossi, Carlo Buccirosso.
Plot: Organised crime remains a blight in Napoli, particularly in the form of a Mafioso named Ciro Serracane – a notorious mob hitman who has never been successfully identified. Enter Paco, a regular police officer with a music degree and a talented pianist; forced to go undercover and perform with the popular local band of Lollo Love in a effort to identify Serracane at a mob wedding. Things don’t go as planned.
Festival Goers? Miss it.
Viewed as part of the Lavazza Italian Film Festival.
Review: Song of Napoli is a gangster thriller meets Italian pop-culture comedy that shows some promise, but never really gets off the ground. It is strictly for locals and fans only, not really translating well to an international audience – who are likely to miss specific jokes aimed at the lamentable state of the music industry, and various jabs at Napoli gangster-wannabe culture. Viewers are likely to get an idea of why most of the film should be funny, but are unlikely to partake themselves.
Helmed by well-known Italian duo, the Manetti Brothers, the film sets out in the right direction with a hilarious tirade from The Great Beauty’s Carlo Buccirosso, here a long-suffering police chief that has to employ every connected idiot that local politician Counsellor Puglisi sends his way. The current idiot in question is Paco Stillo (Giampaolo Morelli), a pianist and Bachelor of Music-holder who is being pushed by his relatives to take up any job he can find. 'This Italy is a country of ignoramuses' Commissioner Vitali raves, ‘a year ago he [Counsellor Puglisi] sent me a nitwit with a degree in philosophy – a genius ... and now who does he send me? A pianist!’ It is a legendary speech, delivered with aplomb by veteran Buccirosso, and it almost makes the film worthwhile viewing. But sadly, a predictable script and lagging pace prevent the film from being anything other than the caper it spells itself out to be in the first act. ‘Where are you going?’ Vitali asks a diplomatically departing Stillo, and promptly gives him a low-level job on the force; completely unaware that his skills will come in handy down the road.
That day comes a few years later, when a wire-tap reveals that notorious hitman Ciro Serracane will be putting in an appearance at the wedding of the local boss’s daughter. Commissario Cammarota (Paolo Sassanelli) just needs a way to get in there and identify the target; and he finds it in local pop-meets-gangster heartthrob Lollo Love (Giampaolo Morelli). Ensuring their pianist is out of action for a few weeks, Cammarota dragoons a reluctant and classically trained Stillo into becoming Pino Dynamite; just the relief pianist that the band is looking for. Stillo is not happy, lamenting the criminal state of his hometown and declaring that ‘this is Naples and children are not taught to respect the rules. They are taught to flout the rules. And what is the result? The city is an open sewer!’ There is bonding, transformation, a love interest in the form of Lollo’s sister Marianna (Serena Rossi), and ultimately a showdown at the wedding itself, where nothing goes to plan. But before they get to that, Pino must prove his loyalty and traipse around with the band to various performances on the road. There’s some amusing business with Lollo attending to his fans through phone calls that inevitably begin 'what’s your name sweetheart?' and it finds Lollo generally channelling a less sleazy version of Robin Thicke.
But there are a lot of missed opportunities within Song of Napoli, and one gets the impression that they are down to the constraints of budget or time. The climactic wedding scene is neither as tense or as convincing as it could have been, and much of the cinematography comes across as a little amateurish or inexperienced. This is by no means a beautiful film, and while I can respect the directorial choice to sell the grit of Napoli and establish some street cred, it often reads visually as a reality T.V. show. This amateurish impression is compounded by an overuse of basic establishing shots, and there’s a pretty unnecessary chase scene at the end with some on-the-nose Western-style character zooms. Finally, we’re treated to a reappearance of Buccirosso as the triumphant police chief, who brings the sunlight and humour with him.
In the final analysis, the weaknesses of the film make it hard to recommend. Audiences will have seen something similar before and know where it is going; and unfortunately, the local colour of Napoli added by the Manetti Brothers isn’t enough to drag the film across the finish line. That said, I can’t emphasise enough what a great comic actor Carlo Buccirosso is.
Rating: Two stars.