Romanzo Criminale – La serie ([roˈmandzo krimiˈnale la ˈsɛːrje], meaning "Crime Novel – The Series") - is an Italian television series based on the novel of the same name by the judge Giancarlo De Cataldo. The series is an adaptation of the film Romanzo Criminale (2005) directed by Michele Placido. The first series quickly achieved cult status in Italy.
This is the second fiction series after Quo Vadis, Baby? that was produced by Sky and broadcast on Fox Crime, Sky One and on Sky Arts with English subtitles in 2012.
The series is partially based on the story of the Banda della Magliana, a criminal organization most active in Rome in the late 1970s until the early 1990s. Most of the characters use the Romanesco dialect. The gang is led by three friends, Libanese (Francesco Montanari), Freddo (Vinicio Marchioni) and Dandi (Alessandro Roja).
As well as its internal feuding, the gang has to deal with the Camorra and Sicilian Mafia that both supply its heroin, the police led by Commissioner Scialoja (Marco Bocci) and the Italian secret services. The plotline is partially based on real events concerning the Banda della Magliana of the 1970s-90s.
Series 1, Episode 1
The opening scene is in the Magliana district in present-day Rome: a middle-aged man is severely beaten and robbed of his wallet by three young thugs. After regaining his bearings the man walks towards an outdoor café (Italian: bar), finds the thugs and shoots their leader through the knee and then the face. The man cries out to the neighbourhood "I was with Libanese!"
The series then shifts to Magliana in 1977, where it begins a chronological account. Libanese, along with members of his small-time gang, Dandi, Bufalo and Scrocchiazeppi, steal a shipment of 50 Olivetti electronic typewriters from a parked lorry. The gang deliver the Olivettis to the fence Treccia, who agrees to pay one million lire for them. The investigation into the theft is led by Commissioner Scialoja, a willing servant of the state. He finds a menthol cigarette stub near the lorry. In a Communist march opposing the police a student, Georgiana Masi, is killed during street clashes. Scialoja is concerned for the life of his sister Sandra, a political activist.
Libanese, instead of splitting the one million lire with his gang, uses it to buy a consignment of firearms (mostly handguns) from an old rival Terribile. Libanese then visits the race track to meet Satana, a bookmaker, who passes on information regarding the movements of Baron Rosellini, a wealthy landowner who Libanese intends to kidnap. On leaving the race track he discovers that his car (an Innocenti Mini Cooper) has been stolen with the cache of firearms in it.
Libanese informs Dandi, Bufalo and Scrocchiazeppi what has happened and of the need to find the Mini. The car was stolen by a young acquaintance of the group, who no longer has it. The car is with Fabrizio Soleri, leader of the Testaccio gang which includes Fierolocchio and the Buffoni brothers, Sergio and Roger. Libanese visits Soleri's garage and after a stand-off between him, Dandi and Soleri is resolved, the stolen goods are returned. Libanese tells Soleri what he intends to use the arms for; Soleri tells him that everybody except the police calls him Freddo.
Although there is constant friction between them, the two gangs together kidnap Baron Rosellini. They take the baron to a house in the country and leave him in the custody of the Cannizzaro brothers, acquaintances of Libanese. Later, one of the Cannizzaro brothers kills the hostage after the Baron sees his face. The gangs prepare a ransom note demanding 10 billion lire. Freddo visits his brother Gigio outside their parents' flat. Gigio introduces his girl, Roberta, to Freddo.
Libanese and Freddo send Scrocchiazeppi and Fierolocchio to Grosseto in Tuscany to call the Baron’s family and tell them that he is alive and that they will receive a ransom message. They do this to make it look as though the kidnapping was the work of Sardinians based in Tuscany. But after making the call the two drive straight through a stop sign on a motorbike and are spotted by local police who take down the Rome number plates.
Scialoja, working his first kidnapping case, and Deputy Public Prosecutor Fernando Borgia clash over where the kidnappers are based. Scialoja believes the crime was perpetrated by local Romans. He builds his case on matching menthol cigarette stubs being found both next to the Olivetti lorry and in the kidnappers' van, as well as a motorcycle stolen in Rome that gets fined outside a phone booth in Tuscany. Borgia finds this evidence tenuous and believes that the gangs in Rome are too small and factious to accomplish a kidnapping of the magnitude of the Baron's; he instructs Scialoja to follow the Sardinian lead.
The Rosellini family announces that they will pay only a one billion lire ransom; Libanese, acting alone, rejects this offer, as he wants to get at least five billion; more fighting erupts between the gangs until Freddo says that they should ask for two billion lire. After taking care of Cannizzaro brother who had killed the baron, the gangs begin their plan to pick up the ransom. Despite interference by the Gemito brothers (colleagues of Terribile) and a last ditch effort by Scialoja, the gangs manage to collect the ransom of two billion. Libanese makes a proposal to the collective gang members: to retain only twenty million each and reinvest the remainder in a "joint project" to take control of illicit activity throughout Rome, inspired by the methods of the Mafia in Sicily and the Camorra in Naples.
Freddo is the first to agree with the plan, but on one condition - the absence of a hierarchical structure in what would eventually become the Magliana gang. Libanese and everyone agree, with the exception of Satana, who takes his share immediately and says that no one gang will ever take control of Rome.
The remaining two Cannizzaro brothers are killed by Freddo and Fierolocchio to eliminate the last two witnesses to the abduction.
All this does not escape the Secret Service or Scialoja who have both started their own investigations.
Series 1, Episode 2
Fierolocchio and Sergio Buffoni are going to bury the dead bodies of the Cannizzaro brothers, but having arrived at the place indicated by Freddo, they see a car stopped and, after waiting, decide to bury them in the pine forest. Unbeknownst to them, Ricotta and Trentadenari, two accomplices of Sardo, boss of Ostia, are "settling an account."
The boys of the two batteries, who continue to be monitored by the Gemito brothers, want to start spending the money but Libanese reiterates that they cannot as the money is "marked". He advises that the proposed acquisition of drugs is done through Puma, the former boss of EUR, who is able to contact the big suppliers. Freddo organizes the meeting with Sardo through Puma. The meeting, however, does not produce the desired results because Sardo, while making himself available to procure drugs, claims a very high percentage of the revenue, which Libanese refuses.
Scialoja is informed by his subordinate, Inspector Canton, that the Baron was often in contact with Satana and that he might be, if not the inside guy in the seizure, at least involved. When this information is communicated to Borgia, the magistrate passes the case to the Commissioner Rizzo, an officer well-liked by his superiors. Scialoja does not give up and continues the investigation. Meanwhile, Dandi meets Patrizia, a beautiful prostitute, and he falls in love.
Fierolocchio randomly discovers that the place where they buried the bodies of the Cannizzaro brothers, work is about to begin on the construction of a building complex and he needs to act quickly.
Freddo gives a Vespino (motorbike) to his younger brother Gigio. Fierolocchio is approached by the Gemito brothers who remind him of a debt of twenty million owed to the Terrible. The two of them propose a job for the boss in order to redeem the money. Sergio Buffoni buys a Porsche 911 with the ransom money. Libanese, worried about the traceability of the bank notes, organizes a robbery to recover the money quickly and retains the recovered money as punishment. He also orders Sergio to move the corpses, and under no circumstances to keep the car.
Freddo, after talking with Sergio and Fierolocchio, meets with Libanese who does not know how to find drugs to sell and the "society" is dissolved. Scialoja communicates the results of his investigations to Borgia and Rizzo, who believe that the kidnapping was the work of outsiders and leave the case in the hands of Rizzo.
Freddo meets his father at the emergency room as his brother, Gigio, has had an accident. There is evidence of a difficult relationship between them that has its roots in the past. Freddo offers to drive Gigio’s girlfriend Roberta home.
Terribile goes to see Libanese, pointing out the errors in his approach with Sardo, offers to procure the drug with a lower rate of return. Libanese refuses and is joined by Dandi and Freddo who reject the idea of stopping. Recalling the words of Terribile, Libanese finds a way to close the deal with Sardo, the drug load will be three billion with a return rate of one half for the boss. Sardo agrees with the promise that if something goes wrong he will have them all killed.
When the deal is agreed, Freddo pays Fierolocchio’s debt to Terrible out of his own pocket and tells the Gemito brothers that none of his battery will ever work for Terribile again. Freddo, Libanese and Dandi go to Ostia and leave Sergio’s Porsche Sergio on the waterfront. When there, they spend a carefree moment relaxing playing football with three other boys they meet on the beach.
Scialoja is informed by Canton that a marked note has been found from the Baron’s kidnap ransom.
Series 1, Episode 3
The first shipment of drugs is available and Libanese decides on the strategy for selling it and taking control of supply in the capital: the city will be divided into zones and each of the gang members will be responsible for taking possession of it, convincing, or "forcing" the various dealers to buy drugs only from the gang and to work for them. Sardo retains the areas of Ostia and Acilia. Freddo gets the EUR run by Puma, who wants out of the business. While the area of Centocelle, controlled by the Terribile, is currently excluded from their control. This is in order to avoid a conflict with the boss who is considered still too powerful for the gang.
Canton secretly informs Scialoja that some of the kidnapping notes were spent in a women's clothing shop in the district of the Esquiline. The commissioner believes that they may have been spent by a prostitute after being paid by a member of the gang who wanted to "celebrate". To identify the woman he seeks help from a colleague who provides catalogued data of the neighbourhood’s known prostitutes over the past two years. He is struck by Patrizia’s details and photo, and, having shown photos of her at the store, he realizes he is on the right track. He starts to stalk Dandi, first in front of his house, then at the racetrack and ultimately, together with Libanese and Freddo, who have called their accomplice to order after having been seen with Patrizia by Bufalo.
The band quickly take control of the agreed areas with the exception of Val Melaina where Shanghai, the local boss, sends word to Libanese with the aid of his accomplices, via the Buffoni brothers, that he who does not intend to give up his activities. The consequences are immediate: after difficult recovering their weapons, which Scrocchiazeppi has hidden in his fiancée Angelina’s house - because of resistance from her father, who threatens him with a hammer – Libanese organizes a punitive strike that will also set an example to any other drug dealers that do not adapt to the new arrangement. Shanghai is almost beaten to death and reduced to begging for his life then dumped in front of a bar, under the eyes of his accomplices.
Bufalo, asked by Libanese to follow Ricotta, discovers that he is in contact with Maurizio Gemito and then attends a meeting between Sardo and Puma. Freddo learns from Puma that he has tried to sell a load of drugs to Sardo. Instead of killing him he agrees to take charge of Puma’s area and remaining drugs. Puma warns him that Sardo is still in contact with a powerful person, perhaps Terribile, to sell drugs. Dandi resolves the issue with the Sardo by threatening to kill him if he also continues to sell drugs to Terribile.
Scialoja avoids informing the judge what he has discovered, as he believes that the evidence at his disposal is still weak. He goes to Patrizia’s apartment, also entering the room adjoining the one where she meets Dandi, discovering it is made up of family photographs and regular clothes. When she returns, he asks about the person who paid her with notes from the kidnapping. She says that it is Dandi but adds that she will never testify before a magistrate.
The political situation and public order are constantly followed by the secret service. The Andreotti government gets a vote of confidence but with the abstention of the Italian Communist Party. Vecchio, director of services, fears that Aldo Moro intends to launch a Government, which also includes the Communists. He orders his agents, Zeta and Pi, to monitor the evolution of the drug market in order to be able to use the new elements to his advantage. Libanese decides the gang’s weapons are no longer safer in the home of Angelina and brings them to a basement room of a Ministry building in preparation for the clash with Terribile.