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MOVIE REVIEW

How two Davids hit the Mafia Goliath

October 27, 2006|Gene Seymour | Newsday

Watching "Excellent Cadavers" will either put your belief in justice in cold storage or make you glad that lawmen like Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino keep rolling heavy stones up the mountain -- even if they die trying.

Based on the book of the same name by journalist Alexander Stille, "Excellent Cadavers" uses Stille as narrator and shadow interlocutor in chronicling the history of the Sicilian Mafia, which was especially bloody in the last three decades of the 20th century. Things had reached the point in the early 1980s when there was a Mafia killing every three days, some in broad daylight. Judges and prosecutors were soon among the bodies piling up in the streets of Palermo.

Somehow, prosecutors Falcone and Borsellino, working mostly under tight security in underground bunkers, managed to mount an investigation relentless and penetrating enough to bring hundreds of crime bosses and soldiers to trial during the 1980s. But even the convictions they scored could not keep Falcone or Borsellino from having subsequent investigations sabotaged by passive-aggressive government interference.

In 1992, both men were killed in separate explosions within weeks of each other. The subsequent public outcry led to more aggressive action against the Mafia. Yet, as Stille and other interview subjects lament, the Mafia still exerts a corrupting influence on Italy's politics. The film alludes to organized crime connections of former President Silvio Berlusconi as being emblematic of past ties between the Mafia and the government.

You wish the movie probed a little deeper into such matters, which are pressed to the film's backdrop by the star-crossed heroism of Falcone and Borsellino -- which, along with the occasional graphic photos of slaughtered victims, is still enough to make "Excellent Cadavers" a bleakly riveting autopsy of frustrated hopes.

*

'Excellent Cadavers'

MPAA rating: Unrated

An Abramorama release. Director Marco Turco. Writers Vania del Borgo, Alexander Stille, Turco. Based on the book by Stille. Cinematography Franco Lecca, Enzo Carpineta. Editor Luca Gazzolo. Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes.

Exclusively at Laemmle's Grande, 345 S. Figueroa St., downtown L.A. (213) 617-0268

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