Blocco 181: Two Romeo and Juliet in the Milan Underworld

It’s no coincidence that the first few minutes of “Blocco 181” sound like “West Side Story” on Speed. There’s dancing and wild partying to the beat of rap and reggae after a young gang member gets his start in the form of punches and kicks. Not only because of the Spanish dialogues, the scene breathes the atmosphere of Colombia or Mexico – even the Latin party is stirred up by a rival Italian gang.

The site of the blow is the suburb of Milan, that fictitious block 181 in the south of the capital, where faceless prefabricated buildings dotted with social housing look like gray concrete fortresses. In this hot neighborhood, a South American immigrant Mesa clan is trying to get their foot in the door of the lucrative drug trade controlled by a local cocaine cartel. But this is just the backdrop to a thrilling liberation story on a romantic as well as a criminal level.

“I’m enough for you,” is the quick response of girl Latina Pia (Laura Osma) when an Italian at the smashed party asks about Mesa’s boss. Pia is the younger sister of the de facto leader Ricardo, who has been in prison for a long time. She sees herself as the right person to comfort Misa despite being a woman and despite the impulse of Victor (Sergio Andrade) who takes over from Riccardo. At the same time, the brave Bey is living something like love at first sight – and on the wrong side: Mehdi (Andrea Dodero), a boy of North African descent who also lives in the neighbourhood, has done so with her. He is like his cousin Rizzo (Alessio Pratic), the leader of the Italians.

The love story is by no means difficult enough. Because between Bea and Ludo (Alessandro Piavani), a middle-class party animal who is in turn a friend of Mehdi, sexual attraction develops first, then love. The Piya family is not allowed to know anything about this triangle, just because relations with the enemy clan are considered a mortal sin. When it comes to drugs, Ludo is not a blank slate either: he acts not out of necessity, but out of “profession” with Coke, which Milanese society consumes in approximate quantities. As a result of a series of events, Pia, Ludo and Mehdi make an agreement: together they want to dismantle the criminal system around them, share their claim to the drug trade and live their lives at the same time.

Ciro Visco, who directed “Gomora” and directs “Bloco 181” along with Giuseppe Capotondi (“Supura”, “Berlin Station”) and Matteo Bonifazio, who came from the ad, testified that when he first read the script, he did not make a clear genre . This is perfectly understandable and also explains the special magic of the series. Crime and romance are on equal footing here, as if Romeo and Juliet — or rather: two Romeo and Juliet — are taking matters into their own hands rather than letting the cruel and ruthless world destroy them. The dynamic of the love triangle, which is related not only to sex but also to security, trust and complicity, serves as the driving force for the plot. Osma, Dodero, and Piavani are fresh and supple faces believed to inspire rebellion and seek refuge in love.

Even if the background and general circumstances are told realistically, the creative essence of the eight-part series is deliberately exaggerated. The strong contrast between light and dark, intense charged colors, and last but not least, hyper-realistic violence scenes convey the feel of the graphic novel. The pulsating electro-acoustic soundtrack of Italian rap star Salmo, who not only acts as a creative producer and music supervisor, but also plays the henchman of a drug lord in front of the camera, fits perfectly with this.

“Blocco 181” fits into the sweeping law of contemporary mafia and underworld drama that Sky Italia has been producing under its long-running fictional boss Nils Hartmann – now Sky Studios president for Italy and Germany – since Romanzo Criminale. First Rome, then Naples with “Gomora”, and now Milan: the complete work over 14 years is also a reflection of a society in transition that has lost many dreams, thus creating a fertile ground for this criminal structure that fills the inner void with drugs.

“Blocco 181,” starting August 11 on Sky Atlantic, Sky Q and Wow

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