Piranhas (original title La Paranza Del Bambini) is, on paper, a coming-of-age story. However, there is more to it than that. While Piranhas could be compared to The Outsiders, City of God, or even Goodfellas, it carries on in the grand Italian tradition carried out by such great filmmakers as De Sica or Antonioni. It involves making an honest statement about the society that bred the characters we’re observing, rendering compassion for characters that might not necessarily receive it so readily, were we in reality.
What starts in a beating ends in a job offer.
Adapted from the novel by Roberto Saviano, who also wrote the novel which was adapted into the beautiful 2008 Matteo Garrone film Gomorra, Piranhas occupies the same world but tells a different story. The film centers around the 15-year-old son of a laundress, Nicola (Francesco Di Napoli) who spends his time riding around on scooters with his large group of friends, causing regular teenage mischief. When an attempted robbery of a jewelry store goes awry, Nicola and company meet the mob boss in charge. What starts in a beating ends in a job offer. The kids are now in charge of dealing weed near the university. An unforeseen turn of events which occurs at the mob boss’s niece’s wedding leaves no one in charge, so Nicola sees an opening. It’s strange to see a group of teenagers rule a city with the same ruthlessness as the typical old mafiosos, but that’s part of what gives Piranhas its charm. I also couldn’t help but be jealous of how much money these kids were making and now regret my lack of joining the mafia when I was a teenager. I’m only sort of kidding when I say that.
Without having read Saviano’s novel, I can only assume that the film remains as true to the source material as possible, considering that Saviano worked on the screenplay with Claudio Giovannesi and Maurizio Bracci. It (the screenplay) also won the Golden Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival. The story is truly compelling. It’s the type that sucks you in almost right away and doesn’t let go till the credits roll. Visually, the film is a veritable tour of the other side of Naples that most tourists don’t observe. Its landscapes are gorgeous thanks to Giovannesi and cinematographer Daniele Cipri. This is one of the best films, foreign or otherwise, I’ve had the opportunity of seeing this year, and wouldn’t be entirely shocked if it was in the running for Best Foreign Language Film come Oscar season, especially with its ties to Saviano. We shall see! In the meantime, check the film out in theaters now.
"…a group of teenagers rule a city with the same ruthlessness as the typical old mafioso..."