If Goodfellas undermined The Godfather’s tragic-gangster mythmaking with wiseguy realism, this Sicilian musical comedy explodes the genre into full-blown burlesque. With a cast of neighborhood locals and real-life hoodlum Enzo Paglino narrating, Roberta Torre’s debut takes true incidents from the Mafia wars that plagued Palermo in the late ’80s and kicks them into a deliriously gaudy farce. Gangster machismo is transformed into latent gayness as disco hit men sing “We are the Mafia” while stroking each other’s chests; an entire village market waves produce in the air (like they just don’t care) while spitting gangsta rap. Composer Nino D’Angelo’s brilliant score moves deftly from jazz to techno to hip-hop, with his lyrics consistently slamming the Cosa Nostra.
Torre’s sympathies are clearly with the women, who, for once, get ample time to bitch about their men. While their unpolished performances can be shrill, the sense of female helplessness within a deadly subculture is genuine, and informs the movie’s riotous irreverence. As with John Waters and Pier Paolo Pasolini, the amateur casting amounts to a communal act of self-defining empowerment: Compared with the senseless killing that pervades their lives, this pastel phantasmagoria featuring dancing chickens and a housewife with fish-head hair curlers seems downright sensible.—Kevin B. Lee