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DVD Review: 'Gorbaciof'

★★★★☆
The phenomenal success of Paolo Sorrentino's The Great Beauty (2013) would appear to be the contributing factor behind Stefano Incerti's 2010 drama finally seeing the distribution light of day over here in the UK. Like the former, this film also stars the great Toni Servillo, but any further similarities ends there. Gorbaciof is as far removed from Sorrentino's opulent and richly-textured world as you can get, but this isn't a criticism. The film packs an equally as powerful emotional punch in its own quiet and undemanding way, drawing you intimately into the world of its central character and his numerous foibles.

Servillo is Marino Pacileo, a weathered-looking chancer who has been given the titular nickname due to the obtrusive birthmark which sits on his craggy forehead. Working as a prison cashier, he is prone to dipping into takings and using the money to help feed his burgeoning gambling habit, riskily hoping to reimburse the coffers at work with his winnings. Developing an attraction to a young, pretty Chinese girl who father owns the restaurant where he plays his games of high-risk poker, Pacileo's tentative romance coincides with a particularly disastrous run of luck at the table. He finds himself in the unenviable position of owing one of his fellow players a large chunk of cash, which has a time limit attached to the delivery.

With Gorbaciof, Incerto has crafted a low-key but thoroughly absorbing character study, strengthened immeasurably by the eminently watchable Servillo. In virtually every frame of the film, Pacileo cuts a lowly, browbeaten figure, yet an unpredictability exists within him. Every once in a while he is more than able to demonstrate there's still fire in his belly. Pacileo is a man of few words, but Servillo offers a fascinating, layered portrayal, achieved primarily through the character's edgy physical presence and swagger. Gorbaciof may have bypassed the big screen, but don't let that put you off. It's well worth seeing and further solidifies the formidable talents and chameleon-like abilities of Servillo.

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Adam Lowes
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