The Ruthless starts with the usual coming-of-age criminal story, but then it lives up to the title, unraveling the narrative of a spiraling man.
Netflix film The Ruthless / Lo Spietato wants to be a story about a man who is too ambitious for his own good in the criminal world, plaguing the streets of Milan, and that’s precisely what it becomes. It takes a while to get there; you can forgive the snazzy tone at the start, as the story of Santo Russo (Riccardo Scamarcio) unfolds with a coming-of-age tone brushing the beginning, and Santo narrating the audience through his self-damaging childhood due to an overbearing father with too much pride.
Once The Ruthless gets past the story building and introduces us to Santo’s adult world birthed from spending a few years in prison, you get a middle-of-the-road gangster story. The Ruthless has a real sense of community attached to it, as Santo embeds himself amongst the criminals, and slowly becomes one of them. The Netflix Italian film hones in on the making of a “monster”; a man that had no clear direction, and preferred quick wins than earning himself something beyond the criminal world.
The story serves the usual mantra of a criminal and his detached wife; in this case, it’s Mariangela (Sara Serraiocco), who subtly plays a naive, love-struck outsider, but her reality becomes more disillusioned as the story goes on. It’s a superb performance by Sara, who shows multiple dimensions to her character, especially between the second and third act.
I somewhat enjoyed The Ruthless. We have seen this narrative gracing our screens several times, but the theme struggles to get boring. A story that involves a criminal outstretching beyond his limits, and slowly spiraling into a world of no return, serves the easiest of dramatic cinema. As the title suggests, he is ruthless, and that expectation is not let down for the audience. I would usually complain at the running time, especially as Netflix films tend to stretch the narrative thin, but I had no qualms with 110 minutes because the narrative adds many layers to Santo, which keeps the film progressing, rather than feeling labored.
There are plenty of foreign titles to enjoy on Netflix, but The Ruthless is a welcome introduction to the international thumbnails. If you enjoy stories like this, then an authentic-feeling Italian gangster story is an excellent excuse to put your feet up for Netflix Friday.
Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.