Movie Review: Neapolitan mobster lives through a day as “The Mayor of Rione Sanita”

Remember that sequence of scenes in “The Godfather” in which Don Corleone receives visitors who come to ask for favors, make complaints and request justice?

That’s basically the plot for Eduardo Filippo’s play, “Il sindaco del Rione Sanità,” “The Mayor of Rione Sanità.” Director Mario Martone (“The King of Laughter”) may take us to a club, a street shooting and out of doors for more action in the third act. But the film he serves up is a maddeningly talky morning, noon and early evening of a Neapolitan mobster — Antonio Barracano — granting audiences to assorted petitioners on his turf and dealing with the sorts of nonsense a mob boss must contend with because only he can dispense justice in this lawless underworld.

Francesco Di Leva plays Don Antonio, a charismatic and fit 40something who has such a hard time sleeping that his underlings fear disturbing him with whatever goes on in the wee hours in his world or in his Vesuvius villa in the hills overlooking Naples.

Two of his young toughs (Ralph P., Armando De Giulio) joke around about who’s stepping on whose toes, and laughingly pull their pistols in the alleys outside of the club where they grinned and played macho. Joking or not, one dude gets shot, and the villa’s doctor (Roberto De Francesco) has to stitch somebody up.

The don’s wife (Daniela Ioia) comes home late, and the don’s mastiffs attack her and maul her. Somebody’ll have to break the news to the boss that his beloved dogs sent his wife to the emergency room.

The doctor is held in virtual involuntary servitude and wants to travel and visit his brother in America. The don may smile and joke around about who he will ask to “greet” him (in Italian with English subtitles) in the U.S. But that’s a threat. And that trip? No dice.

This man with a debt, that one with a beef with his rich baker father, approach. A young pregnant woman is here with her boyfriend, another petitioner, all of them wanting the favor of/a favor from Don Antonio, whom one and all know is a “sincere man,” a reasonable man, if not someone to be trifled with.

The fact that one hand is bandaged up speaks volumes. The way the don wears his hoodie and does sit-ups — boxer-style — lets us know he’s tough. And he’s smart. The two pot-shot taking underlings get a good beatdown — with his good hand — when they come to beg his forgiveness.

“He has his own take on the law,” his wife admits as the doctor tries to get her on board the idea of sending those dogs into quarantine.

The little bits of action are well-handled. The setting is less striking than the dimly lit office of Don Corleone, but interesting in a “This is how the Naples mob lives” way. But the movie’s theatrical origins — stagey and talk-talk-talkie– weigh it down and render it too boring to justify an investment of two hours.

“Basta,” as the Italians say. Enough is enough. Give us some ACTION.

Rating: unrated, violence, profanity

Cast: Francesco Di Leva, Daniela Ioia, Roberto De Francesco, Ralph P., Armando De Giulio and Francesco Di Leva.

Credits: Directed by Mario Martone, scripted by Mario Martone and Ippolita Di Majo, based on the play by Eduardo De Filippo. A Film Movement release.

Running time: 1:57

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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