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Piranhas (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 1, 2020



Starring Francesco Di Napoli, Ar Tem, Alfredo Turitto, Viviana Aprea, Valentina Vannino, Pasquale Marotta, Luca Nacarlo, Carmine Pizzo, Ciro Pellecchia, Ciro Vecchione, Mattia Piano Del Balzo, Aniello Arena, Roberto Carrano, Adam Jendoubi and Renato Carpentieri.

Screenplay by Maurizio Braucci & Roberto Saviano & Claudio Giovannesi.

Directed Claudio Giovannesi.

Distributed by Music Box Films. 111 minutes. Not Rated.

Decades of mobster movies have shown us young male characters bowing down in reverence to old men with connections to violence, money, and power. It’s always a no-win situation. In a world where the people holding the biggest guns are in charge, there is always someone with a bigger gun looking to take their place.

15-year-old Nicola finds this out the hard way. He is young, confident, and ambitious, a natural leader in his peer group of equally young and foolhardy friends. They dream of buying cool clothes, meeting beautiful girls, and heading to clubs where their underage butts can only get in if they can buy a 500 Euro table reservation.

He lives with his single, hardworking mother and his little brother, in a small flat in a mob filled town. After watching his mother get strong armed by the muscle thugs that collect from local small business owners for “protection” money, Nico decides to take matters into his own hands. He wants money, but more than that, he wants to rid his mom of her money troubles by eliminating the threat of the thugs. He aligns himself with the current thug boss and secures work selling weed to university kids with the promise that if he and his buddies do a good job, the thugs will stop collecting from his mom.

Nico knows that a person in power doesn’t need to extort money from the small-town businesses to be powerful. He saw that style of leadership in recently-murdered mob boss Tonino Striano – he was feared but liked and never extorted money from the people to stay in power. When Nico’s boss and colleagues are rounded up at a family wedding for incarceration, Nico is savvy and forms alliances to take over the mob boss role and end the community’s collective extortion.

Piranhas is captivating in its horror – 15-year-old boys with names like “Biscottino” and “Lollipop” wielding semi-automatic weapons and repeatedly snorting lines of coke, watching Nico make his first fully pre-meditated murder, and watching Nico’s younger brother and friends discover the bag of weapons, knowing full well that nothing good can come of this discovery. Amongst the horrors, watching Nico’s mom stand by and do nothing. In fact, she enables his activities with the reverence of a mob supporter. She knows that something is up beyond simple teenage antics and doesn’t question the newly formed wads of cash in his pockets.

Piranhas’ twist is that Nicola inherently has the knowhow to move his ambition forward, quickly, while still maintaining the idealism of his 15-year-old teenage self.

At the heart of the story, Nico wants his family to be safe. He wants to have money to be comfortable and live the way he wants to live. He wants to be in love and run away with his beautiful girlfriend. He wants his town to live and work without fear and for a brief moment in time, he is able to give them this freedom. As a character study, Nico is fascinating and young actor Francesco Di Napoli’s portrayal is haunting. At times, you are rooting for his character, other times you are mortified.

In our present gun heavy-country, Piranhas feels like a cautionary tale. A hard watch in this current climate.

Bonnie Paul

Copyright ©2019 All rights reserved. Posted: August 9, 2019.

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