There is so much going on in Romanzo Criminale it's hard to keep abreast of it all. Adapted from his own novel - which in turn is based on a true story - Giancarlo De Cataldo presents a meandering, elongated film documenting the rise of Italy's notorious Magliana gang that terrorised the country in the '70s. Centred around three childhood friends - Fredo (Stuart), Lebanese (Favino) and Dandy (Santamaria) - who grew up into serious 'hoods, Romanzo Criminale takes you on a step-by-step guide to the heart of the Italian underworld. Like Once Upon A Time In America, the movie really takes off when Fredo is released from prison to find that his friends have started building a criminal empire under the guidance of the lethal Lebanese. Unsatisfied with their position in Gangland, Lebanese, Fredo and Dandy immediately set about taking down Rome's top drug dealers; but soon their antics attract the attention of dedicated police detective Scialoja (Stefano Accorsi).Even at two and a half hours, Romanzo Criminale is a fast-paced crime drama. Yet it still looks like it shaved off a lot of its story, and seems content to jut forward from time to time - leaving the viewer to pick up the pieces and presume that time has just flitted by and new relationships and deals have sprouted up. This tact can be both infuriating and intriguing at the same time. Director Placido seems unsure whether to give his film the full welly when it comes to the violence: sometimes he shows us everything, but at others he uses clever cutaways and lets the audience use their imagination. The acting is flawless and pick of the bunch has to be Kim Rossi Stuart; his Fredo emanates a coolness that would give Steve McQueen a run for his money. He is also the film's heart, as his relationship with the beautiful tutor Roberta (Trinca) is the only warmth in a cold, heartless film.