3 Best Movies to Watch by Salvatore Ruocco

Staff & contributors

Abel Ferrara's protagonists have always searched for higher meaning in a flawed, messed-up world of pain and violence. If 1992's Bad Lieutenant took Harvey Keitel to church for one of American indie cinema's most spectacular endings, Padre Pio doesn't offer such solace. Ferrara (who's been living and working in Rome for years now) teamed up with Italian screenwriter Maurizio Braucci to direct a period piece that brings together the real life of a Catholic Church saint (the titular Padre Pio) and the rise of socialism after WWI. What seems like a straightforward historical approach turns first gruesome and then profound to capture the contradictions at the heart of Italy as a nation. A character study that breaks free of its biographical chains, Padre Pio shows that Ferrara has still got it, 50 films in. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alessandro Cremona, Alessio Montagnani, Anna Ferrara, Asia Argento, Brando Pacitto, Cristina Chiriac, Ermanno De Biagi, Federico Majorana, Ignazio Oliva, Luca Lionello, Marco Leonardi, Martina Gatti, Michelangelo Dalisi, Roberta Mattei, Salvatore Ruocco, Shia LaBeouf, Stella Mastrantonio, Vincenzo Crea

Director: Abel Ferrara

Rating: R

In the crowded genre of Mafia movies, Gomorrah finds its originality in not romanticizing anything. It's authentically gripping, violent without being excessively violent, and something that can only be described as a masterpiece of Italian cinema.  It follows different protagonists' entry into organised crime in Naples, with the two main ones taking their inspiration from American gangster characters.  Just to give you a sense of how well-rooted this movie is, after it was done shooting, many of the characters (including the guy who plays the clan boss in the movie), were arrested. In his case, he was caught trying to collect  "pizzo", otherwise known as mafia tax.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Alfonso Santagata, Carmine Paternoster, Ciro Petrone, Fortunato Cerlino, Gianfelice Imparato, Gigio Morra, Giovanni Venosa, Giuseppina Cervizzi, Marco Macor, Maria Nazionale, Riccardo Zinna, Salvatore Abbruzzese, Salvatore Abruzzese, Salvatore Cantalupo, Salvatore Ruocco, Salvatore Striano, Toni Servillo, Vincenzo Fabricino

Director: Matteo Garrone, Maurizio Braucci

Rating: Not Rated

While at first it seems like this third installment in Antoine Fuqua's series of Denzel Washington star vehicles is setting itself up to be a more serious and thoughtful story of personal absolution, it gradually becomes clear that The Equalizer 3 has no story to tell. Very, very little happens in this movie, and all the time we spend with Washington (still somehow compelling, even when he's on autopilot) drinking tea and chatting with locals doesn't lead to any character relationships worth caring for. Fuqua and screenwriter Richard Wenk seem to want to create a sense of familiarity with this Italian town, through which we should ideally see the things Robert McCall grows to value in his violent life. But even the prettiest landscapes (shot by Robert Richardson) can't make up for how empty and misjudged the writing is.

There are approximately two short action scenes in The Equalizer 3, neither of which has the clockwork precision of the fights in the first film, or the environmental inventiveness of the climax of the second film. And while an action movie can aspire to something beyond its action, the fact that this installment has abandoned it completely is a genuinely perplexing choice.

Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller

Actor: Adolfo Margiotta, Agostino Chiummariello, Andrea Dodero, Andrea Scarduzio, Arcangelo Iannace, Beatrice Aiello, Bruno Bilotta, Dakota Fanning, Daniele Ornatelli, Daniele Perrone, Danilo Capuzi, David Denman, Dea Lanzaro, Denzel Washington, Diego Riace, Eugenio Mastrandrea, Gaia Scodellaro, Gianluigi Scilla, Giovanni Scotti, Lucia Zotti, Luigi Catani, Marco Giuliani, Mariarosaria Mingione, Marta Zoffoli, Mauro Cremonini, Melissa Leo, Niccolò Senni, Remo Girone, Salvatore Ruocco, Simona Distefano, Sonia Ammar, Valerio Da Silva

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Rating: R