Whether on purpose or not, the premiere of the new Netflix series Vendetta: Truth, Lies, and the Mafia coincides with the premiere of The Many Saints of Newark, a prequel to The Sopranos. However, although the latter is an outgrowth of a TV program that went out of its way to deglamorize the mafia, it smells of Hollywood artifice when contrasted to this new documentary.
Indeed, there is no romanticism here; rather, there is a steady parade of elderly, weary men and women smoking inside, exhausted by the relentlessness of it all.
The film Vendetta recounts the tale of Telejato, a small local Sicilian television station that established a reputation for itself by taking a vehement anti-mafia stance. Telejato news broadcasts, hosted by Pino Maniaci, a tiny, chain-smoking guy with a moustache so large it makes him seem like a Pixar figure, often singled out particular members of the mafia.
It wasn’t surprising to see Maniaci spit: “You pieces of shit,” while jabbing his finger at the camera, which isn’t something you’d expect from Huw Edwards.
The mafia, predictably, responded. Maniaci’s vehicle was set on fire. His dogs were slain. Numerous and persistent threats were made against him.
Despite this, Telejato remained on the air. Vendetta recounts the tale of the conflict in six episodes, gradually showing exactly how deep the mafia’s power extends and how difficult it is to remove them from any aspect of contemporary Sicilian society.
It is a 15-year project that starts in the aftermath of a government crackdown. Authorities confiscated assets and companies, which were only restored when it was shown that the owners were not involved in organized crime.
Many of the assets remained confiscated, as you would anticipate. But then Maniaci began to consider what occurred after that.
The cops now had a huge sum of money in their hands. What precisely was it supposed to be about?
According to Maniaci, the solution was a group of high-ranking government officials with strong connections to the mafia. There’s also the possibility that it climbed much higher.
A video showing Maniaci trying to extort hundreds of dollars from a local mayor surfaced shortly after he began probing around the upper levels of local administration. The majority of Vendetta takes the form of a courtroom drama, in which Maniaci battles to defend his reputation from accusations that he, too, has fallen to corruption’s horrors.
The weight of the repercussions of this may be nearly unbearable at times. What is the purpose of battling if the mob has its tentacles around the government and the media?
Maniaci gradually gives the sense that he is his own worst enemy. The red flags appear gradually at first.
He says that all he wants is to be famous, according to his own sister. His tendency of continually referring to oneself in the third person, as if he were a brand, begins as an unusual quirk and eventually develops into a pathological condition.
Later in the series, he makes a discovery that threatens to shatter his unblemished image as a decent guy. Gradually, you begin to doubt his motivations and wonder whether he really is the final hope for justice.
It’s an engrossing tale, but it’s riddled with the typical true-crime problems. Its six episodes could have been condensed into four, and the genre’s preoccupation with intentional obfuscation – muddying a story to keep the audience guessing – is becoming tiresome and cynical, particularly when you can read the whole arc of the trial in a few lines on Wikipedia.
Vendetta, on the other hand, truly fires off when it shoots off correctly. Furthermore, if you look at the primary battle from the correct perspective, you may see more than a hint of Tiger King.
We have a tendency of seeing the mafia as something that occurred long ago and far away from us, thanks to Coppola and Scorsese, and even – despite his protests – David Chase. The most frightening element of Vendetta is how rampant it is today — and how unavoidable it is.