Whistle-blowing on corrupt corporations is one thing; whistle-blowing against the Mafia in Sicily is something else entirely. Such a drama is traced in “The Sicilian Girl,” a fictionalized account of a real-life case from the early 1990s.
The main character is based on Rita Atria, a teenager who decided to violate her town’s stern rule of silence after her brother was assassinated (as their father had been earlier). She turned in evidence condemning the local mobsters, and quickly had to disappear into anonymity as a huge trial commenced.
In the movie, Rita is played by Veronica D’Agostino, a fiery, unpredictable new actress. Rita is unpredictable herself: The Roman prosecutor doesn’t know what to make of her lippy attitude or her unwillingness to stay put even under dangerous circumstances. He’s played by Gerard Jugnot, the veteran French actor who starred in the Oscar-nominated “Les Choristes.”
After a prologue, in which the young Rita witnesses the shooting of her father, the movie jumps ahead to her rebellion as a 17-year-old. Clutching a diary, in which she’s kept a record of the Mafia crimes in her town, she takes the fatal step of turning to the authorities.
She also takes a step into a new identity, which is not something she handles well. Nobody’s idea of an ideal witness, she’s prone to emotional outbursts and reckless strolls around the Colosseum, when she should be holing up in her room.
This kind of ornery heroine gives the movie some interest. Director Marco Amenta, who has made previous documentaries about the Sicilian Mafia, is not quite filmmaker enough to rise to her level.
The storytelling on display is crude, and leaves you curious about issues that aren’t addressed. Still, crude can be effective, and “The Sicilian Girl” makes some points — in particular, the relationship between witness and prosecutor becomes a surrogate-father situation that becomes meaningful to both.
Amenta surely wanted to bring the continued menace of the Mafia to the public discourse again, which he has done. It’s also a welcome change of pace to see gangsters portrayed as vengeful and base, instead of the creeping (even if unintentional) glamour of “The Godfather” and its godchildren.
And I have to give Amenta credit for a storytelling coup: The ending of this film really took me by surprise. A story like this needs to go all the way, and it does.
“The Sicilian Girl” 2 and ½ stars
Based on a true case of a Mafia whistle-blower, this film is crude in its effects but still packs some punch. In Veronica D’Agostino, it has a fiery and unpredictable new actress; she plays the 17-year-old girl whose evidence puts some gangsters in court, and takes her into a witness protection program. In Italian, with English subtitles.
Rated: Not rated; probably R for violence