The Traitor

Movie review by
Danny Brogan, Common Sense Media
The Traitor Movie Poster Image
Italian mob biopic is courtroom drama with bloody violence.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 153 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Crime, drugs, and other unethical behavior are key themes. Although honor and family are cited by many, the main motives are money, power, and revenge. Violence and murder are used to achieve these goals. Justice -- through the courts -- is sought by some.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The central characters are all career criminals who don't think twice in using violence and murder to get what they want. They are also heavily involved in the drug trade and lie and cheat. Though Buscetta says he is a family man, he freely admits he could have done more to protect them. His reasons for becoming an informant are also born from revenge and a misguided belief that traditional criminal codes have been broken. Judge Falcone is one of the few positive characters whose motives are a real desire for justice.

Violence

Bloody violence throughout. People are gunned down with machine guns. A character has their arm chopped off before being shot to death. A torture scene involves a beating and being held repeatedly under water. A character is made to watch as their spouse is dangled above the sea from a helicopter. Other characters are strangled to death. A car bomb kills two people and is depicted in slow motion from their point of view -- those responsible are shown celebrating the deaths. Two people enter a bedroom while a couple are having sex and shoot dead one of them. A character is shot at while with their young child. Another sews their mouth shut in an act of defiance. In a dream sequence, a character is put in a coffin while still alive. Someone consumes poison in a suicide attempt resulting in frothing at the mouth and convulsions. A parent repeatedly hits their adult son for taking heroin. An older character is seen dead in bed having died of natural causes.

Sex

Some brief sex scenes, which include naked breasts and buttocks. A sex worker visits a prisoner and has sex with them. During a phone call to their spouse, a character is naked and starts to masturbate. In a court scene, a defendant strips in an act of protest -- their penis is seen. A prisoner is also seen naked on CCTV. A character's love of sex is discussed on more than one occasion. Some grabbing of the crotch in an aggressive and suggestive manner.

Language

"F--k," "pussy," "sluts," "bastard," "d--k," "s--t," "s--tstain," "pissing," "ball-less loser," "damn," "cuckhold," "scumbag," and "jerk" are all used.

Consumerism

Extravagant lifestyles are depicted, aided by illegal activity. Designer suits are discussed with a scene taking place in a tailors.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters smoke -- cigarettes and cigars -- and drink throughout. Someone references being drunk. The distribution of heroin is a key component to the plot. A character is referred to as a drug addict and is seen after taking heroin.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Traitor -- original title Il traditore -- is an Italian (with English subtitles) drama, about a Mafia boss turned informant, with bloody violence and murder throughout. Characters are gunned down, strangled, beaten, and blown up by car bombs. Tommaso Buscetta (Pierfrancesco Favino) is the mafia boss who, after the death of his two sons, turns on his fellow crime bosses. A deciding factor in his decision is when his wife is dangled from a helicopter above the sea by police who make Buscetta watch. In another of a the more brutal acts of violence, a character has his arm chopped off before being shot in the chest. Due to their criminal ties, all the main characters show deplorable traits in their bid for power and money. There are some sex scenes, which, although brief, do feature some nudity -- breasts and buttocks. A male defendant also strips naked while in court and another is seen naked in his cell -- their penises are visible on both occasions. There is frequent profanity including variants of "f--k" and "s--t." Buscetta is depicted as a heavy smoker and there are many examples of other characters smoking -- both cigarettes and cigars. Characters also drink throughout but there is no specific depiction of drunkenness. Buscetta's son is a heroin addict and in one scene, after taking the drug (off screen) is hit repeatedly by his father. An interesting -- albeit with no positive takes -- insight into the world of the Cosa Nostra.

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What's the story?

THE TRAITOR is the real-life story of Sicilian Mafia boss turned informant, Tommaso Buscetta (Pierfrancesco Favino). Following the murder of two of his sons, Buscetta begins to question the criminal code he has dedicated his entire life to. After his arrest in Brazil, Buscetta is given an ultimatum; testify against his fellow Mafia bosses, or suffer the consequences. He agrees to the authorities demands and helps bring one of the biggest-ever cases against the Cosa Nostra.

Is it any good?

Part biopic, part courtroom drama, this is an Italian Mafia -- or "Cosa Nostra" as the central character keeps reminding us -- movie of epic proportions. The action takes place on the island of Sicily, Brazil, mainland Italy, and later the U.S., spread over a period of 30 years. As such the running time is little over two and half hours. Not unheard of in films from this genre -- both The Godfather and Goodfellas are longer. However, whereas those movies warranted this attention span, The Traitor could have spent more time in the editing room. But trim away the excess fat, and you'll find a meaty biopic of a man who was directly responsible for the conviction of over 400 members of the mob during the 1980s and 1990s.

Favino plays the titular role of a real-life Mafioso Tommaso Buscetta -- or Don Masino -- who turns informant after what he perceives a portrayal to the "values" of the Cosa Nostra. It's a role that allows Favino to show his full range -- for the most part stoic, but also with flashes of pain and anger. Director Marco Bellocchio demonstrates his own skill set with some breathtaking set pieces, most notably the moment Buscetta decides to turn informant and another where a car bomb is shown from the point of view of the victims, spinning in slow motion as their vehicle is catapulted into the air. Audiences have always had an appetite for Mafia movies and The Traitor provides a pivotal chapter in the Cosa Nostra's history -- albeit one they'd like to forget.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in The Traitor. How did it add to the story? Were there any consequences for the perpetrators? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • What were Buscetta's motives to become an informant? Were his former friends and family right to be angry at him? Discuss the idea of betraying your friends for the right reasons.

  • Why are movies about the Mafia so popular? How does this compare to other movies from the genre?

Movie details

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