As merely the latest Italian gangster drama to follow in “Gomorrah’s” footsteps, “Boys Cry” is unquestionably well-made, and yet while watching, a question nevertheless arises: Why does the world need yet another movie about a couple of over-animated cretins with barely a modicum of ethical fiber who join the mob and gleefully shred any fiber still remaining? Yes, remorse comes, but why should audiences care unless they’ve gotten some questionable jollies out of watching these two guys jump feet-first into the black hole of amorality?
To the credit of novice directors Damiano and Fabio D’Innocenzo, billed as “the D’Innocenzo Brothers,” they don’t sensationalize the violence, but we are meant to feel sympathy, which is a tall order. Whether their film gets traction outside of Italy depends on how saturated the market is with the already familiar supply of mafia-centric stories.
Somewhere in Rome’s uglier outskirts, best buds Mirko (Matteo Olivetti) and Manolo (Andrea Carpenzano) drive around loudly shooting the breeze. Then Mirko accidentally runs over a guy, and Manolo screams to keep going. In need of advice, they tell Manolo’s shady father Danilo (Max Tortora), who discovers that the dead man was a small-time snitch with a price on his head. Great news, he tells the teens: Let the Pantano clan know they deliberately mowed the guy down, and they’ll be treated like goombas.
Mirko has niggling pangs of conscience but that’s soon subsumed by the excitement of playing hit men for Mafia boss Angelo (Luca Zingaretti). It sure beats delivering pizzas, and they get to feel like big men when they treat Angelo’s stable of Eastern European hookers with contempt. Unfortunately, so do the D’Innocenzo brothers, who offer a glimpse of one forlorn-looking prostitute, but after that, choose to film the streetwalkers through Mirko’s rolled-down car window, their disembodied torsos as expendable and interchangeable to the viewer as they are to the two leads.
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Has this derision colored Mirko’s view of all women, or is it his suppressed guilt, manifested by stomach pains, that makes him treat girlfriend Ambra (Michela De Rossi) like a whore in bed? Why was she with him anyway, before the rough treatment? Olivetti nails the fast-talking, manic swagger of the disaffected young Italian male, but that doesn’t mean the script accords the character an ounce of agreeability. Even his put-upon single mother Alessia (Milena Mancini) is ready to throw her hands up.
No one says anything that hasn’t been heard countless times in movies set similar milieux, but at least the D’Innocenzo brothers refrain from glamorizing the violence: The killings are cold and brutal, shown without any pornographic luridness. The English-language title, “Boys Cry,” refers to a line of Ambra’s, remarking that Mirko never cries; using it for the film’s name further conveys the impression that we’re meant to sympathize with these nasty doofuses, but to what end? For allowing themselves to be lured by tawdry amorality, and then feeling slightly uncomfortable with it all? Manolo’s father’s lack of positive guidance serves as a clue as to why his son is like this, but Mirko’s mother works hard and does what she can to hold things together, so what’s the conclusion here? At least the Italian title, translating to “The land of just enough,” does a better job of hinting at the impact of the guys’ social environment.
Cinematographer Paolo Carnera is also the DP behind the “Gomorrah” TV series as well as mafia film “Suburra,” so he’s in his element when shooting petty mobsters in crummy locations. The film looks good, the actors capture their roles perfectly, and the editing keeps things moving at a good clip. For those still not tired of small-time young Italian gangsters, “Boys Cry” can be considered a solid entry in the genre, but that doesn’t mean the script makes anything new out of the usual elements. Faust made his pact with the devil to gain knowledge; these guys make theirs to feel like big men, but neither maturity nor insight ever catch up.