11 April 2012 | dave13-1
Better than expected
As the history of modern (1970-95) Italy plays out - the kidnapping of Aldo Mora, the Bologna bombing etc. - a ruthless gang of outsiders are successfully muscling in on Rome's lucrative drug and gambling rackets. Meanwhile, a hard-nosed detective is tracking their activities, seeking evidence to put them away. And lurking even deeper in the background are State black ops figures who may or may not be manipulating both the criminals and the events themselves.
I was expecting the sort of cheap crime exploitation movie that proliferated in Italian cinema back in the 70s, but this is a different, much more ambitious and better type of movie. Crime Novel is structured very much like an Italian version of American Gangster. It has the same intimate yet gritty feel, the same long slow story arc, playing out over years against a background of world events; the dedicated cop who seems like the only police official who sees his duty as catching criminals rather than taking bribes; and drug dealers who see themselves as businessmen providing a service rather than villains, and most of time they are.
The focus is clearly on the gang. They grew up together in the streets. Crime and friendship are what holds them together. They have strong loyalties to those closest to them but can be ruthless to those who oppose them. Individually, they have frailties, but together they are formidable. The script is structured to provide each of the central characters with plenty of screen time, and its strong dialogue and intimate tone create very multi-dimensional and mostly sympathetic portraits.
The resulting movie is very watchable and a worthy companion piece to movies like Carlito's Way, Scarface and American Gangster. Recommended.