Romanzo Criminale series two PREVIEW

Violence and conspiracy – right on cue. Pics: BSkyB

Rating: ★★★★

Sky Arts 1: Tuesdays, 9pm

Story: Libanese is dead. The gang moves into the 1980s facing inner tensions and a brutal battle to consolidate it’s position as major player in Rome’s criminal underworld.

Dandi and Patrizia

Italian gangster epic Romanzo Criminale is already back on Sky Arts and it’s definitely worth settling down to it with a bottle of Chianti and some olives. If the stabbings and shootings don’t put you off, all the food on show will make you peckish.

There’s also a fantastic array of hairstyles, sideburns, moustaches and leather jackets on display once again. The period music that can be naff but so right – Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart worked so well in the season opener – joins the fashions to create a convincing vision of a disturbing period in Italian history.

Commissario Sciajola

The Years of Lead, terrorists and gangers
To recap, Romanzo Criminale is based on the real-life Banda della Magliana, a gang that arose in the 1970s during what became known as the Anni di piombo – Years of Lead. This was a chilling period of violence in Italy when far-right secret servicemen may have subcontracted terrorist acts to the gang, Aldo Moro was murdered and the Bologna massacre was staged.

Shady government figures have again used the gang in episode one by identifying Libanese’s killer, which meant barmy Bufalo could be prevented from murdering dozens of innocent people to vent his grief. He had already stolen Libano’s body because he was furious that the dead leader’s mother would not sanction a gawdy mobster’s funeral.

Gangster chic

If the looks between Dandi and Bufalo could kill…
The drama has lost its most charismatic and swaggering figure in Libanese – played by the excellent Francesco Montanari – and the gap is felt by the characters and viewers alike. But it has set up plenty of tensions, with the shrewd Freddo now struggling to hold the macho men together, and Dandi and Bufalo eyeing each other suspiciously.

The women are the only figures not strutting around with mad dreams of owning Rome. Libano’s mother looked with disdain and sorrow at Dandi and Bufalo when they called round wanting to pay for the funeral, and Roberta finally walked out on Freddo after one more failed promise to leave the life behind.

Rival outfits

Scialoja is crossed by the thugs and his bosses
This week (Tuesday, 2 October) the Banda is locked in a power struggle with the Sardinians who control the city’s drugs supply and Freddo’s visit to them ends in a battle.

This is followed by an episode (9 October) focusing on the moment Italy won the 1982 World and the gang were in hiding, but ended up being made a mouthwatering offer by another crime boss. But there could be a price to pay…

Dandi needs to watch his back

It’s a rich minestrone of violence, conspiracy and history. Italy can be a deeply cynical place – just watch detective Scialoja trying to do his duty, but getting the runaround from his superiors and the gangsters.

Cast: Vinicio Marchioni Il Freddo, Alessandro Roja Il Dandi, Marco Bocci Commissario Scialoja, Daniela Virgilio Patrizia, Andrea Sartoretti Bufalo

• Related feature: Interview with series one director Stefano Sollima

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