Gallery openings, fancy cars, and wild success: Sounds glamorous? Well, they say you pay a price for everything, and in the case of The Ruthless, that price is lies, drugs and murder.
Showing every angle of Milan from the glitz and glamour to the grimy gang-ridden streets, the Netflix movie follows the unexpected path of one man’s life — which is almost as surprising to those around him as it is to the audience.
Constantly reminding us that life isn’t always as it seems, the story follows Santo through his early teen years spending time in juvie for a crime he didn’t commit, all the way through to his polished-but-not-so-polished life of lucrative crime and infidelity.
In muted tones that fit with the ‘80s aesthetic, the movie — which is based on a true story — unfolds in a dramatic, but believable way that leaves the viewer feeling equally, if not more so, fooled by this clever man’s wily lifestyle.
With a soundtrack of funky but nostalgic tunes, the beautifully crafted film somehow chronicles Santo’s life in a way that makes you feel empathy for him — whether or not that is an emotion he himself is capable of.
Just as the cinematography and direction seem to be expertly and artistically crafted, Santo’s character is a work of art in and of itself as well. No matter how many wrong turns he takes, his charm and wit seem to outweigh his wrongdoings: whether it’s drug dealing, cheating, or even murder.
As the movie unfolds, it becomes almost comical how charismatic and charming one man can be. While he clearly has an evil streak, be it out of nature or nurture, he continues to be a magnetic force throughout the entire narrative.
As the story unfolds, other characters expose their cards too, reminding us that everything is not as it seems. Characters who at once seemed secondary somehow morph into their own powerful forces, to exit the scene in a way that lets us hope for the best for them outside of Santo’s destructive grasp.
If this all isn’t compelling enough, the Milanese finesse that envelops the entire plot is reason itself to give it a watch. While it’s not all set against Duomo di Milano, a fair bit of it is — and the parts that don’t emphasise the grit and reality of the city’s mafioso past.
If nothing else, you’ll walk away feeling equal parts impressed and terrified, charmed by Santo as much as you are scared, and with a deep desire to be wandering the streets of Milan yourself — although maybe not the same ones he did.