Review: Romanzo Criminale [2005] - dir.Michele Placido

A master criminal has his sights on conquering Rome’s underworld in this exciting gangland saga, spanning more than 25 years of criminal activity in Italy. ROMANZO CRIMINALE follows Libano from hoodlum to kingpin, tracking his rise to power, and the struggles that arise within his gang of ruthless cohorts. However, this isn’t just another variation of the classic gangster film formula, as it becomes evident the gangs activities are intrinsically linked to the darker episodes of the country’s history, with police and governmental corruption, kidnapping plots and even romance broadening the canvas of this epic film.

Take one part Coppola, add a splash of Scorsese, mix liberally with a serving of Tarantino, pour over some crushed, updated Leone and top with a shot of Scarface, and you are some way to understanding where this film sits within the pantheon of crime cinema...

If you're a fan of any of the above 'gangster' movie luminaries this film will be right up your 'strada'. Telling the compelling story of a group of working class kids who become a criminal gang that ends up controlling the lion's share of Rome. It's a visceral, thought-provoking work of power and elegance, much like Leone's Once Upon Time in America, add to this a strong and capable cast with some fantastic juxtaposition of archive footage and you have an epic saga that belies it's 2 hour and 27 minute running time, by flying by in an accelerated heartbeat.

Based on the Magliana gang, who indeed did take control of Rome, it spans about 20 or so years, from the early days of kidnapping local bigwigs into international drug dealing and prostitution. It shows that not even the tightest relationships can survive the phrase 'absolute power corrupts absolutely' as the founder members of the gang, Lebanese, Ice and Dandy begin to fall apart because of love, paranoia, drug addiction and the dogged efforts of the police commissioner, who wants to bring them all to justice, no matter what the cost.

Even if you hate subtitled, European movies give this a chance to do it's magic on you, you'll come away from it feeling better about yourself, your friendships and having learned a considerable amount about Italy's turbulent recent history.


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