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‘The Immortal’ continues the ‘Gomorrah’ story on HBO Max

Dan Webster

Above: Marco D'Amore co-wrote, directed and stars in the HBO Max film "The Immortal." (Photo/HBO)

Movie review: "The Immortal" ("L'immortale"), directed by Marco D'amore, starring Marco D'Amore, Salvatore D'Onofrio, Martina Attanasio. Streaming on HBO Max in Italian with English subtitles.

In 2008, the Italian filmmaker Matteo Garrone released the film “Gomorrah,” a study of the Naples crime syndicate, the Camorra, based on the book of the same title written by investigative journalist Roberto Saviano.

Comprising a number of loosely connected stories, Garrone’s film portrays life in and around the housing project Vele de Scampia – so named because of its distinctive sailboat shape. Existence in the project, and in fact most of the Italian port city, is portrayed as brutal – dominated as it is by those who sell drugs, run numbers and protection schemes and do any number of other illegal activities that attract the city’s hordes of hapless and hopeless youth.

Beginning in 2014, Italy’s Sky Atlantic began running a “Gomorrah” television series that ran for four seasons – with a fifth and final season set for release later this year. That series goes into far greater detail than the film, introducing a wide range of characters, eventually keying on the son of a mob leader, Gennaro (played by Salvatore Esposito), and the mob leader’s ambitious underling Ciro (played by Marco D’Amore), who becomes the son’s mentor and brother in arms.

For context, think of “Gomorrah” the series as an even more callous and violent version of HBO’s “The Sopranos.”

Before Season Five premieres, though, we have the feature film “L’immortale” – or in English, “The Immortal” – which is available now on HBO Max and which serves as a bridge between “Gomorrah” Seasons Four and Five. Bear in mind that it’s impossible to describe what occurs in “L’immortale” without disclosing at least one big spoiler.

That particular spoiler involves the reviving of a character supposedly killed off in the final episode of Season Three, that of the ambitious underling, Ciro di Marzio (who again is played by D’Amore). Not only does D’Amore return as Ciro – the immortal character of the film’s title – but he also serves as the film’s director and co-screenwriter.

Rather than sinking to the bottom of the Bay of Naples, which was the last we saw of him at the end of Season Three, we see Ciro both nursed back to health and, subsequently, recruited to head a drug-smuggling operation in Latvia.

It is in Riga, Latvia’s capital, where Ciro – as haunted as ever by his past – is put in charge of a crew of Italian immigrants. No stranger to crime, having made a living by creating fake knock-offs of designer clothing, the crew is offered the chance to make a lot more money by processing and selling drugs.

The trade-off? The drug enterprise is potentially a lot more dangerous. Not only will the crew be competing with a gang of Russian mobsters, but they’ll be caught in the middle of a war between the Russians and a gang of Latvians who want to take over the business for themselves.

Amid all this, Ciro at first seems out of his depth, struck almost comatose by memories that torment him. Not of his adult years in Naples, though, but of his childhood, when he – the survivor of an earthquake-caused building collapse, which earned him his nickname – was the acolyte of a wannabe gangster named Bruno and had a crush on Bruno’s sweet-singing girlfriend, Stella (played by Martina Attanasio).

The resulting story takes all the expected, riveting “Gomorrah”-like twists and turns, many of them Macchiavellian in their indidiousness. D’Amore’s Ciro – who in the end proves as capably devious as ever – remains steady at the film’s  powerful center. And the closing scene gives a clear indication about where the final season of the series is headed.

“L’immortale,” then, has me not only looking forward to those coming episodes but also, as a consequence, brushing up on la mia capacità di parlare la lingua italiana. And, not coincidentally, craving pizza.