Carcaterra (best known for Sleepers, 1995) inserts an American into the Four Days of Naples, when the great port city was saved from Nazi destruction by an army composed mostly of boys.
The Italians made a beautiful film of this astonishing and true WWII story of Neapolitan heroism, but Carcaterra’s new version supposes an American hero, a second-year law student from Kentucky, Steve Connors, now ably serving as an army corporal. Connors is sent in by his commander to reconnoiter Naples, which the Germans have recently evacuated of its citizens prior to executing Hitler’s order to destroy the city. The Allied Forces are sitting on their duffs, waiting for a go-ahead from Field Marshall Montgomery, but the Germans aren’t. Colonel Von Klaus’s Panzer tanks are clanking down the road, picking off stray Italians and headed for what they are sure will be a cakewalk. Corporal Connors, losing his two sidekicks in action on the way into the city, gains a replacement force of scugnizzi, Neapolitan street urchins, and a wounded but still valiant mastiff. By a miracle roughly equivalent to the liquification of the blood of Naples’ patron San Gennaro, the lads—and most of the lads Connors will meet—speak, not just English, but an English that reads eerily like a dubbed soundtrack. Connors himself speaks a lot of exposition, dialogue not being a Carcaterra strong point. Connors hooks up with one of the few adults in town, a clever but cynical boozer with a comely daughter, and together they set a strategy to stop the Panzers in their tracks. The action finally picks up, halfway through the story, with the onslaught of the Nazis and execution of the plan, which involves a lot of sewer scuttling for the scugnizzi, street urchins, and surprise for the conquerors of Europe. Connors and the pretty daughter will find a few quiet moments alone amid the fray.
Past the clunky soundtrack and heroic Yank, there’s a great story here.