After decades of Mafia movies, the genre often struggles to shock and surprise audiences who think they’ve witnessed every iteration of organized crime onscreen. But the opening moments of Italy’s “Piranhas” — which feature a band of wild teens and tweens wreaking havoc in Naples — are arresting, engaging even seen-it-all viewers with a story of young criminals who quickly graduate from mischievous misdemeanors to violent felonies.
Teenage Nico (Francesco Di Napoli) looks barely old enough to shave the angular planes of his face, but the allure of fancy clothes and a better life draws him to work for local crime families. He begins by selling drugs and collecting money from local merchants, though his ambitions soon launch him and his family into more danger.
“Piranhas” drags in moments, but it jumps from scene to scene as quickly as the boys weave through Naples on their scooters. The film races at speeds so fast that viewers won’t find themselves bored, even if they’re jarred a bit by the transitions.
Based on a novel by “Gomorrah” scribe Robert Saviano (who also co-wrote the screenplay with Maurizio Braucci and director Claudio Giovannesi), “Piranhas” is another gripping story of crime in Naples, as filled with grit as the city’s winding streets. This drama isn’t as masterful as “Gomorrah” but the handheld camerawork and spare use of score suck us into the crimes, all the more chilling due to the age of their perpetrators.
Running time: 1 hour, 52 minutes
Playing: Landmark’s Nuart Theatre, Los Angeles