Romanzo Criminale: The Italian Sopranos

Sex, drugs, Mafia violence and ace moustaches. Romanzo Criminale is set amongst the political mayhem of 1970s Rome and it starts tonight at 9pm on Sky Arts. Here's why you should watch it...
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Romanzo Criminale (Crime Novel) may owe a huge debt to the Martin Scorsese school of stylized violence and  killer soundtrack but its moral soul, if you can call it that, rests firmly in the world of the Italian underworld and its shady links with political power in a country where you never know who the real criminals are. While the Mafia and Camorra have had their slice of the onscreen pie, little is known outside Italy of Rome’s notorious Banda della Magliana gang of brutal and not so charming thugs who rose to the top of the crooked tree in the turbulent 70s. That’s all about to change with a series that is as cool as The Beastie Boys’ Sabotage video …

Five reasons you should uncork the Chianti, order in a pizza for a rollercoaster of Soprano-style violence, Wire-like intrigue, sexy babes and porn-style moustaches all inspired by the larger-than-life political events of 70s Italy.


Director Stefano Sollima cut his chops as a news cameraman and as a student of the political upheavals of 1970s Italy his hand-held style captures Rome in all its faded glory as the Capital cowers under political bombings, murders and kidnappings. The pace is as frantic as the gang’s lust for violence, sex and the odd line or three of coke but Sollima’s cool-handed approach ensures the viewer never misses a beat in the heart of a Roman rage or cold-eyed moment of brutality.


We first meet Lebanese played by the charismatic Francesco Montanari high-tailing it from a bungled lorry job in a clapped out caravan. With the smell of money everywhere the Roman thug and his number two Dandi (Alessandro Roja) join forces with Ice’s (Vinicio Marchioni) equally desperate small-time gangsters to hatch a plan to grab as much loot as possible. Each one of these compelling young leads must have watched Goodfellas, the Godfather and Scarface on a continuous loop to let free their inner psycho as they pull out an impressive array of firearms to put enemies, friends and innocent bystanders in their place.

Get ready to swoon for the most seductive puttana to have ever hit British screens, Patrizia played by the drop-dead gorgeous Daniela Virgilio


Every vintage clothes shop in Rome must have been raided and every garage scoured for classic Fiats to recreate a genuine 70s look tight down to the big hair and sideburns, but nothing can touch the authentic moustaches sported by a good percentage of the cast with the incorruptible and idealistic police inspector Scialoja (Marco Bocci) spurting a small forest over his top lip. Then if that was not enough the music hits you like a soundtrack to boogie your life away to – with everything from Iggy Pop to Chic thrown onto the turntable.


They have the looks, the bodies and the know how to make any man drop to his knees – before he gets a bullet in the back of the head, naturally. Get ready to swoon for the most seductive puttana to have ever hit British screens, Patrizia played by the drop-dead gorgeous Daniela Virgilio who shacks up with Dandi only to have the upright Bocci succumb to her womanly charms. Think Gina Lollobrigda twinned with Claudia Carmine in their prime – you may want to dump your girlfriend.


Italy in the 70s was a place where the political lines were so blurred that the secret service thought nothing of employing a bunch of male vite, basic low lifes, to destabilize the government. From kidnappings to car bombs, from brutal slayings to police brutality and politically-motivated atrocities the country’s “Years of Lead” as they became known, are the backdrop to the gang’s own desire for power as they run head long into an even more shadier world. Silvio Berlusconi’s supposedly infamous Bunga, Bunga parties with teenage girls may be grabbing the headlines today but back then anyone stepping out of line was likely to end up in the boot of an Alfa Romeo.

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