Romanzo Criminale — Killer TV No.42

Sky Cinema 1 (Italy), 2008-2010

‘I want to die like a pharaoh, buried in gold.’ – Dandi
Francesco Montanari, Vinicio Marchioni, Alessandro Roja, Marco Bocci, Daniela Virgilio, Andrea Sartoretti
Identikit: Based on true events, the series follows the Banda della Magliana, a gang in Rome that tried to emulate the criminal dominance of the Mafia and Camorra in Sicily and Naples during the 70s and 80s.
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Big, ambitious series recounting an intriguing period in modern Rome – the strife-torn years of conspiracy and criminality of the 1970s. Forget the twee staples of UK crime shows such as Lewis and Midsomer Murders. Romanzo Criminale is a crime drama con brio. The hirsute, big-lapel styles of the time are merged brilliantly with verite-style action sequences to tell the true story of a gang from Rome’s Magliana district – Banda della Magliana – run by old friends going by the names of Lebanese, Dandi and Freddo, who set out to become the city’s top criminal outfit by running the local heroin trade. Ranged against them are one of the few uncorrupt cops, Commissioner Scialoja, along with those traditional pillars of Italian society in the shape of the Sicilian Mafia and the Neapolitan Camorra. ‘Let’s take Rome,’ Lebanese tells his gang after their first big success when he cajoles them into using their money to move into drugs and gambling like the Mafia in Sicily, rather than blowing it on women and Rolexes. ‘Let’s take it before someone else does.’ In a further ominous twist, shady right-wing security service figures subcontract their dirty work to the gang during the era that was disfigured by the assassination of Aldo Moro and the Bologna massacre. Season two moved onto the 1980s, following events after the killing of gang leader Lebanese. The series had its roots in a book by Judge Giancarlo De Cataldo, which then became a cult film in Italy. Director of the TV series Stefano Sollima gave the drama a cinematic feel, and the production had a scope and ambition rarely seen in British television these days. ‘I wanted to have something that was glamorous sometimes, but normally really tough and

realistic,’ Sollima told CrimeTimePreview. ‘Today, if you show this series to young people, they can’t believe it was true. For that reason, I put a lot of attention into the detail for costumes and the look of it. It was important to make it realistic. It’s the first time you can see what happened in Rome, normally a quiet city. The Banda della Magliana was historically exceptional. A group of people got the power in Rome and then they deal with part of the State and the Camorra. It never happened before, and now no one rules the city like they did.’ Shooting with handheld cameras, using overlapping violent scenes played out to pop classics by the likes of Iggy Pop and disco group Chic, with a style that relies heavily on landmark mob movies such as GoodFellas, Romanzo Criminale is an thought-provoking adrenaline rush through a frightening era of modern Italian history.

Classic episode: The 12th and final episode of series one saw Lebanese’s drug use and paranoia damage his self control, while Ice looked to escape the life and go abroad with his girlfriend, Roberta. It all ends with Lebanese, in the pouring rain, demanding that his mother, who has condemned his criminal life, let him in to her apartment so that he tell her how successful he has become. Instead, at this low point in his life, motorcycle assassins pull up and execute the King of Rome.

Watercooler fact: The Banda della Magliana operated during what Italians call the anni di piombo, or years of lead. This refers to the number of bullets that flew during the turmoil, which included a wave of terrorism carried out by right- and left-wing paramilitaries in which nearly 2000 murders were committed. The Banda along with other criminal groups and rogue secret service elements were all said to have been involved. The period, in which terror seems to have been used to maintain social obedience, is still shrouded in controversy and debate.

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