Vera (Isabella Ragonese) is a woman with a lot on her plate. She’s a fixer, someone who procures weapons, vehicles, anything the Roman criminal underworld desires. As if all of this isn’t stifling enough, she performs these duties acting as an undercover cop.
Vera exists in a violent man’s world and deals with extreme danger every day. Her personal life is somehow both non-existent and at the same time, complicated. Vera‘s current assignment sees her providing weapons for a Serbian crime syndicate planning a heist. Their leader Dragan (Alan Katić) an insane devout catholic with a twisted sense of fate. Along with Vera, the syndicate begin hiring local criminal talent which leads them to Bruno (Andrea Arcangeli), a local petty thug trying to provide for his young daughter who is about to make Vera‘s life much more complicated. You See, Bruno is Vera‘s younger brother.
Vera is now torn between her duties to her handlers and obligation to a brother she abandoned long ago. She attempts to walk the fine line between bringing down the gang while keeping Bruno out of prison. As the stakes begin to rise, Vera‘s options start running out. Before long she’s not only fighting for her brother’s freedom but for their very lives.
Like Sheep Among Wolves (Come pecore in mezzo ai lupi) is among the selection of films at 2023’s ST ALi Italian Film Festival. Directed by Lyda Patitucci and written by Filippo Gravino, the story is a combination of family drama and hard-edged crime. Making her directorial debut with this film, Patitucci focuses on character and the damage that personal trauma has on our decisions.
I absolutely adore heist films, so I was especially excited to watch this. Set in Rome, the picturesque city serves as a magnificent backdrop for such a gritty crime thriller. Shot by Giuseppe Maio the abandoned quarries, canals, graveyards, and alleyways show a darker side to the Italian capital. Perfectly representing the much bleaker outlook of the overall story.
Things are especially twisted in Vera‘s world. Her real name is Stefania, although she is so far deep undercover that she has willingly cast off her past identity. Day to day, she facilitates evil men to do evil things just to push closer to catching slightly larger fish, always one wrong move away from death while her superiors in law enforcement treat her no better. She is simply a tool and to achieve this, she has to be uncaring in the face of violence.
The film’s other protagonist Bruno fares no better, a man whose status as a career criminal makes it impossible for him to find work. Yet needing to provide for his daughter in a vicious custody battle, Bruno has no choice but continue his past mistakes. Both he and Vera are effectively disowned by their family but don’t fully belong to the criminal underworld either. They’re each two sides of the same coin.
Patitucci and Gravino do a commendable job in developing deep multifaceted characters while increasing the tension throughout. As the story progresses, we learn more about the key players as they fall deeper into darkness with things becoming so dark, we begin to wonder what exactly is it these characters are even fighting for anymore.
Although not heavy on action as the focus is more on the characters, the ultimate heist sequence is spectacular, echoing classics with an all-out attack on an armoured van. With Like Sheep Among Wolves (Come pecore in mezzo ai lupi)’s slow methodical build-up being well worth it for this explosive spectacle.
An ever increasingly nail-biting experience that is sure to satisfy fans of crime epics and Italian cinema with a laser focus on character drama and a brilliant lead performance by Isabella Ragonese, Like Sheep Among Wolves (Come pecore in mezzo ai lupi) exceeds expectations.
Like Sheep Among Wolves (Come pecore in mezzo ai lupi) is playing in Australia between September and October as part of the 2023 ST ALi Italian Film Festival.
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