A familiar but arrestingly visceral crime story with a coming-of-age twist, Claudio Giovannesi’s Piranhas has an unusual relationship with its own predictability.
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The screenplay struggles to rise above the level of a sociological study into the realm of exciting cinema.
In its reliance on a conventional narrative through-line, it’s more reminiscent of “The Public Enemy” than “Goodfellas” in spite of its stylings of contemporary cinematic realism.
To watch young people fall into old patterns is still to watch those old patterns, and the film cannot escape the familiarity of its archetypal, rise-to-power, fall-from-grace narrative.
Piranhas feels a bit like a teen movie that just happens to have a Cammora backdrop, rather than a serious, nuanced drama about the paranza system – essentially, the grooming of underage kids as drug runners and Mafia footsoldiers.
There is something so perceptive in the way Giovannesi zeroes in on these embryonic mafia bosses–especially as Piranhas ventures into the kids’ relationship with the adult world around them–which makes for an enjoyable if patchy 105-minute ride.
Piranhas is no documentary, but it plays out with a deadpan style that is deeply unsettling.
Claudio Giovannesi’s film is more an interesting tweak of Goodfellas than an eye-opening social statement.
Giovannesi’s movie is watchable enough, but often looks like a smoothed-out, planed-down version of Garrone’s Gomorrah: Gomorrah without the rough edges, like a classy television version.
Piranhas generally succeeds whenever it leans into its hangout vibe. The teenage gang isn’t particularly memorable (names and personalities are eschewed for rowdy homogeneity) but their collective energy can be fun to watch, especially because it allows Giovannesi to document youth as currently lived.