Combustible Celluloid
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With: Veronica D'Agostino, Gérard Jugnot, Giulia Andò, Roberto Bonura, Paolo Briguglia, Francesco Casisa, Giusi Cataldo, Miriana Faja, Lollo Franco, Carmelo Galati, Michele Gargano, Giuseppe La Licata, Marcello Mazzarella, Manuela Mulé, Mario Pupella, Primo Reggiani, Lorenzo Rosone, Filomena Salerno, Zu Sanddu, Lucia Sardo
Written by: Marco Amenta, Sergio Donati, Gianni Romoli
Directed by: Marco Amenta
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: Italian, with English subtitles
Running Time: 115
Date: 10/29/2008

The Sicilian Girl (2010)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Red Don

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Two years ago, Matteo Garrone's Gomorrah re-invented the Italian gangster film for the 21st century, and now Marco Amenta's The Sicilian Girl sends it back again. Like many movies based on true stories, it's hamstrung by a need to stay faithful and respectful to the original players, and it never really comes alive.

Ironically, the best scenes are the early ones set in 1984. They ooze a traditional kind of gangster movie, with slick mafia dons in pinstripe suits strolling around the town square, and the loyal peons kissing their rings. There's also more sheer movement in these early scenes; the rest of the film gets rather stuck. It's in these early scenes that we first meet little Rita (Miriana Faja), who idolizes her father, and who witnesses his violent death.

Rita's brother plans their revenge, and it results in his untimely death as well. In 1991, Rita becomes a young woman (now played by Veronica D'Agostino, who looks a bit like the real Rita, but nothing like the little girl). She goes to the police for her revenge, and connects with a judge (GĂ©rard Jugnot) who once had the tenacity to stand up to her father. Together, they formulate a case against the entire gang.

These later scenes require Rita and the judge to talk quite a bit, in little rooms, sometimes shuffling papers around. On her own, Rita is in witness protection and must pass her time in her room. Director Amenta tries to give her a little romantic fling with a boy in Rome, but of course, dating is dangerous for Rita and it comes to nothing. Likewise, her childhood romance with Vito (Francesco Casisa) doesn't really catch fire.

The movie tries to paint Rita as a spitfire with a lot of spunk and D'Agostino does her best; she sends back the red clothes her police protector brings, demanding all black instead. In court, she walks right up to the murderous Don Salvo (Mario Pupella) -- who sits behind a protective barrier -- and gives him a defiant stare. But these moments, as well as the attempts at romance, still fail to bring Rita fully to life. She loved her father and she was brave, but the film doesn't know who she was underneath these headlines.

Overall, The Sicilian Girl is a rather inert drama; perhaps it could have done well in noticing that viewers are traditionally more interested in gangsters than in the good guys that bring them down.

The 2010 DVD from Music Box Films comes with trailers. I received a promotional copy, and it appears to have no other extras, but I can't report on the final product.

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