DVD Review: MAFIOSA (MHz Releasing)

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by Dale Reynolds on January 5, 2019



For certain, we in America are well-acquainted with the Sicilian-born gangster clans first labeled The Black Hand (in the late 19th century), then La Cosa Nostra, and finally simplified as the Mafia. We’ve seen them in films and novels and theater. But most of us are not acquainted with the Mafia in France.

The first two seasons of Mafiosa released on DVD by MHz Choice (from 2006/7) were a reboot from a 2014 first try at this subject.  There are three more seasons yet to be aired or sold by MHz Releasing.

A French-Corsican/Italian family, the Paolis, have created a successful tribe in the French-held small island of Corsica (birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte). The godfather, Françoise Paoli (the late Daniel Duval) is murdered by a rival gang just as the series begins, but his influence (and physical presence) influences his successor and niece Sandra (Héléne Fillières), a thirty-something lawyer who is stylish, attractive, sensual and a ruthless leader. Her brother, Jean-Michel (Thierry Neuvic), might have been the next leader but even he is aware that he’s a better follower than leader.

These first 16 episodes grippingly demonstrate the crassness of the clan’s violence and their gang-warfare, the impotence of the police force and political leaders (some of them in the Paolis’ pockets), and a cowed populace who accept their dangerous nonsense as an immutable force in their lives and histories.

In Season 1, Sandra and Jean-Michel take on their first official business as clan leaders when a rich local official named Zamponi tips them off about a potential jewelry heist. But worse, Sandra uncovers a human-trafficking ring of underage Albanian girls into Corsica to work as prostitutes. She vows to dismantle their network, even if it means collaborating with the police.

After an explosion in a building belonging to the Paoli clan (most likely in retaliation for the exposure of the trafficking), Sandra must find those responsible for the attack. Dangerously, Carmen, Jean-Michel’s daughter (Phareele Onovan), is kidnapped from outside her school. Then, an illegal distillery belonging to the Paolis is attacked and a crisis meeting is called. Who is trying to destabilize the clan? Sandra pays a visit to Jean-Michel’s regular side-kick Martial Santoni (a stunningly good Rémi Martin) to help them.

In a rigged boxing match organized by the Paoli clan, their pugnacious champion, Tino, is told to last nine rounds but unexpectedly collapses in the seventh and is shot down in the street afterwards as a betrayal of the tribe.

The clan awaits the arrival of a cargo boat loaded with illegal weapons, but they have unwittingly fallen into a police trap. Sandra seizes this moment of unrest to launch her political career. Securing her election victory, she tells Jean-Michel she will continue to pull strings for the clan but won’t be getting her hands dirty in the future. However, the authorities are slowly closing in.

With Jean-Michel and his associates in custody in Season 2, an attempt is made to unseat Sandra from her position as head of the Paoli clan and she requests support from regional crime boss Coco Casanova, based in Marseilles. Sandra hastily tries to regain control and take revenge on those who betrayed her, while Jean-Michel offers a cash reward to whoever helps him escape from prison.

President Larcher offers Sandra proof of illegal wiretapping in the case against Jean-Michel in exchange for the murder of nationalist Paul Bonafedi. Complicating everything, Casanova asks Sandra to seize his partner Edmond Benmussa’s territory. Keller pressures Marie-Luce (Caroline Baehr), Jean-Michel’s wife, to tell him everything she knows about Sandra in exchange for keeping Jean-Michel out of jail.

But, foolishly, Jean-Michel has become determined to gain his share of the Paoli clan with Sandra refusing to negotiate and war breaks out between them. Marie-Luce is caught between Keller and her husband.

Sandra’s first high-risk drug operation is a success and she soon expands her narcotics business. Andreani and Simon come to a decision about Marie-Luce. Carmen’s relationship to both mother and father puts her in danger.

Jean-Michel is in shock about recent events, suspects Sandra is masterminding everything, and takes his revenge. As brother and sister bury their loved ones, they are no longer united by their suffering.

Concerned about the rift between the Paoli siblings, Casanova tries to make Sandra see reason, but when she refuses to submit to his demands, he declares war and asks Jean-Michel to eliminate her.

Thrillingly directed by by Louis Choquette (season 1) and Éric Rochant (seasons 2) the rest of this powerful, well-acted, tautly written series will continue with seasons 3, 4 and 5, the final renamed Mafiosa: L’ultime saison (Mafiosa: The Last Season).

Season One | three discs | 409 minutes
Season Two | three discs | 402 minutes
in French with English Subtitles
released January 23, 2018
available at MHz Releasing or Amazon

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