Venice 2014: 'Senza Nessuna Pietà' review

Screening in the Orizzonti sidebar of the Venice Film Festival, Michele Alhaique's gangland romance Senza Nessuna Pietà (2014) is a slickly made yet brutally clichéd piece of implausible and ultimately inconsequential nonsense. Mimmo (Pierfrancesco Favino) is a construction worker who sidelines for his criminal uncle collecting debts and roughing people up. A burly giant of a man, he really has a gentle heart and is pained by the violence he must perpetrate, especially at the behest of Manuel (Adriano Giannini), his sadistic conniving cousin, an epically unattractive squirt of sleaze. Things come to a head when he's tasked with ferrying a young prostitute, Tania (Greta Scarano), to and from a tryst with Manuel.

First of all, Manuel arrives on the wrong night which leads to Tania staying at Mimmo's; although the reason he has to chaperon is unclear (if it wasn't simply to give time for the characters to develop some kind of connection). The following night, when Manuel starts to get rough with the girl, Mimmo flips and attacks his cousin. Almost none of this is genuinely credible, but they have to go on the run, taking refuge with Mimmo's cleaner Pilar (played by Iris Peynado) as his uncle's henchmen try to track him down. We've seen this all done before and done better. Luc Besson's Leon (1994) immediately springs to mind in playing what could have been an icky relationship between man and girl-child into something believable and human. Mimmo's attraction to Tania is obvious - what Tania sees in Mimmo, less so.

Familiarity is not the worst of Senza Nessuna Pietà's sins, however. It's the consistent stupidity of all the characters. Granted, Mimmo is supposed to be what was once called 'slow', but why do all of the other character seem so chronically unaware of sense. Of course, genre dictates that Mimmo must return to his flat to get his money, but why must the characters later rendezvous for their final escape at a bus station? Especially given that Mimmo's driving their in a perfectly usable car. Favino is a fine actor and a great screen presence with his brooding powerful features, but he can only do so much with what he is given and must take some of the blame himself, having as he does a co-producer credit. Scarano's role is much more problematic as the script gives her nothing to go on and the camera leers at her unabashed - not so much the male gaze as Manuel's gaze. Senza Nessuna Pietà looks good and perhaps this review is a little on the harsh side, yet the film's title does translate to 'without any pity'.

The 71st Venice Film Festival takes place from 27 August to 6 September 2014. For more coverage, follow this link.

John Bleasdale


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