ROMANZO CRIMINALE (Michele Placido). 152 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (July 6). Rating: NN
Romanzo Criminale can't decide if it wants to be a large-scale, plot-driven melodrama informed by Italian history or an intimate character melodrama about boyhood friends who achieve great success in crime, only to have the criminal life tear them apart in adulthood.
If veteran actor-director Michele Placido had established the character drama in the first hour, rather than whipping through the plot as if he were unpacking a miniseries, then the second hour (and change) wouldn't seem so bogged down in the character drama.
Against the background of 70s terrorist kidnappings, our young protagonists kidnap a rich guy. When asked for proof of life, they kill him - and get paid. The gang members want to split the money and pursue their own pleasures, but the lethally clever Ice ( Kim Rossi Stuart ) proposes that they use the money to take over the drug trade in Rome.
Placido's true crime is over-ambition. He's dealing with a story that needs four or five hours to give it the kind of detail that he achieves in the best scenes.