The Traitor (2019)

MARCO BELLOCCHIO

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.

Original Title: Il traditore

///, 2019, , , , , , Screenplay by , , , , Cinematography by Produced by , , , , , , Music by Production Design by , , Costume Design by Film Editing by Cannes Film Festival 2019European Film Awards 2019.   Toronto International Film Festival 2019.  

Marco Bellocchio delivers a different kind of mob movie than the one you’re used to, there’s no rise and fall here of a golden age of crime here, just the fall, and it happens mostly in a courtroom.  is the right level of smarmy cool as Tommaso Buscetta, the “boss of two worlds” who attends a meeting meant to declare peace between rivaling Cosa Nostra families.  As a young man he had romantic ideas about joining the Sicilian mob because he saw them raising the island out of poverty, now he sees them as pushing heroin on kids (including their own) and no longer wants a part of it.  He leaves Palermo and holes up in Brazil with his wife and kids, but when friends and family get killed in remarkable numbers back home, it’s quickly followed by his being arrested in Rio and extradited back to Italy.  His family is sent to the United States and the only option for seeing them involves him spilling the beans, so Favino decides to become the first informant on the mafia, and when he does, he spills it all.  The headlines are soon ringing about the accusations that come out of his testimony, arrests are made and trials are held; Buscetta finds himself labeled the public enemy, workers believe the mafia is the only reason they can feed their families, while his former colleagues see him as the worst kind of traitor.  Bellocchio is determined to stay free of melodrama, directing an anti-GoodFellas/Godfather film that involves no codes of honour or stylish murders, he whittles this world down to action and reaction, killings and retaliations, crime and punishment; Buscetta himself doesn’t undergo some kind of spiritual struggle, he simply wants something.  Thanks to this emotional leanness the film’s massive running time slips by quickly enough, though it takes some time at first to catch up with its details, Bellocchio has made it with his contemporaries in mind and throws dates and names at you rapidly as if assuming we all were there and remember it in great detail.  It would have been interesting if it also called Buscetta’s own ego into question: is he actually the man who brought down the mafia, or did he just believe that about himself?  A host of terrific actors make this one a pleasure, but if mob movies aren’t your thing, you won’t be converted.

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