by Marko Domazet
Guns, fabulous ladies and an underlying rawness are expected ingredients in films about the mafia. These ingredients not only make the films exciting, but if used correctly can result in pieces that are so complex and full of depth that they stay with us forever. After having a quick read about Romanzo Criminale I thought it would have it all. Guns? Check. Fabulous ladies? Check. Rawness? I should bloody hope so.
Thanks to our fabulous friends at Icon, Loose Lips got the chance to view the film and boy we were excited. The beginning, telling the story of three childhood friends that set out to conquer the dark streets of Rome, was fun and showed promise as we were presented with complex characters, a fast pace and a story that looked like it could offer a few good twists and turns. Also, we knew the film was based on a true story and the fact it was set in an incredibly interesting era of Italian contemporary history had me hoping Romanzo Criminale would deliver.
Personally, I really enjoyed the struggles some of the characters went though as they tried to grow up, cope with the stress of their ‘career choices’ whilst learning to embrace more real things in life such as love. The acting was, at times, superb and some of the simpler scenes and the supporting cast lifted the film. Anna Mougalis as the hooker with a heart of gold and a mind set in stone, stole every scene she was in and the love story between Ice (yeah, I know the names are lame, but Italians are Eurotrash) and Roberta was as heartbreaking as it was frustrating (just like real life, right?).
Then the film rolled on and on and on… and on. The biggest problem I had with it was the pacing and the way the story was edited. I found it to be incoherent and at times and it felt like Michele Placido (the director of Romanzo Criminale who indeed has made a fabulous film or two in his day) seemed to want to cram in too much. I wasn’t fully sure if Romanzo Criminale was a love story, a gangster film, a heavy drama or something entirely different. I believe the jumbled editing is the main reason for this confusion, but the silly mistakes in Romanzo Criminale, such as the fact that the characters physical appearances don’t change despite the fact that decades are passing, were fueling the confusion further.
I’m all for films that are about life and that touch upon all different aspects of it. Films that make you laugh, cry and piss you off in duration of 2 hours are worth their weight in gold. However, this approach requires a strong sense of direction and, I regret to say, Romanzo Criminale was lacking in it. Instead, this 2.5 hr mastodon of a film takes you on a confusing ride consisting of heavy retaliation scenes, montage clips and a great deal of talking.
Having said all of that, this is the kind of film that critics might consider a masterpiece. It’s certainly long enough for you not to want to make any sense out of it, but it’s got just enough arty montages to it for it to be considered art house. Personally, I am still confused and would consider this to be an Ettore Scola light.
They say you should kill your darlings, so I guess that’s what I’ve just done. So yeah, if anyone knows what confused is in Italian, let me know.