There’s just no real perspective on Buscetta, which separates this brisk but uninvolving history lesson from the truly great mob movies. I was a little bored with it, too, honestly.
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Bellocchio’s approach to the story is at once coolly objective — the movie is part biopic, part courtroom procedural — and almost feverishly intense. He has a historian’s analytical detachment, a novelist’s compassion for his characters and a citizen’s outrage at the cruelty and corruption that have festered in his country for so long.
A handsome production and ambitious in scale, the impact of The Traitor is muted by the familiarity of its well-worn tropes.
Once The Traitor earns its title, the movie is overwhelmed by legal intrigue and mafia infighting, and flattened into a repetitive and somewhat impenetrable courtroom drama.
Its most valuable asset is actor Pierfrancesco Favino.
It’s at its best when showing how gangsters undermine their lofty notions of nobility with displays of narcissism.
It’s clearly made by a master filmmaker questioning the nature of repentance, and as such is far from superficial; and yet while it never loses our attention, it also doesn’t deliver much of a punch.
The screenplay — written by Bellocchio in collaboration with several others — has no particular point of view regarding Buscetta, seeming content merely to take us step by step through his two decades as an informant.
The film has the authoritative air of official history: sometimes brash, sometimes stolid, sometimes with flashes of inspiration and sometimes with long stretches of courtroom dialogue.
The film digs into the minutiae, giving off an unmistakable air of expertise, but the screenplay ends up being a collection of footnotes and intriguing digressions without necessarily feeling like an authoritative handling of this sprawling material.