By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)

Most American cinephiles have seen plenty of Italian gangster/organized crime films based mostly in the United States. Italy’s The Traitor gives these audiences a more complete glimpse of the other side of that coin. Based on the real story of Tommaso Buscetta, the film serves as a portrait of a career criminal ready to leave “the life” and willing to sell out his associates to achieve that goal. The movie does have its genuinely intriguing moments, but often gets too bogged down in its procedural aspects.

Pierfrancesco Favino stars as Italian mafia boss Tommaso Buscetta, a “family” leader who has benefited financially from the gangster life, but does not see a brighter future ahead for himself and his children. During a key tense moment among the families in charge, Buscetta and his wife Maria Cristina de Almeida GuimarĂ£es (Maria Fernanda Candido) decide to flee Italy and go into hiding. The trouble is not only are the other families looking for him, so are law enforcement authorities. Left with no other choices, Buscetta agrees to cooperate and help the authorities take down the heads of the other families. This decision obviously further risks his life and the lives of those closest to him.

Written and directed by Marco Bellocchio, The Traitor does offer a rather fascinating story, but often meanders in its presentation. This pacing problem and the film’s redundancies drag out the affair a bit too long. These issues definitely take away from the overall impact the movie should have. Visually, Bellocchio, presents his movie with great style, but struggles when it comes to the flow of the storytelling.

The movie does feature some some great acting too. In particular, the performance of its star Pierfrancesco Favino brings a genuine humanity to a courageous character full of regrets. He beautifully portrays Buscetta as a man who once believed in his work, but through age and experience, he begins to see the futility of it all. I feel that the greatest strength of the film is this character and Favino brings the character to its full realization.

Though the movie does have its setbacks l, it still offers audiences a compelling story of a penitent man hoping to set things right. It is a film I still recommend, but one that is probably better enjoyed in one’s home. Fans of mafia movies are sure to appreciate this interesting Italian import, but probably won’t necessarily be overly excited about the overall experience.

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