Recently honored with 14 nominations and eight wins at the Italian film awards, Crime Novel is a gangster film with something of an epic feel, despite a seemingly narrow focus on a small group of friends. Beginning in the late 1960s, when all of its subjects are still bored, invincible teens, the film traces their rise from bumbling obscurity to one of the most feared criminal gangs in Italy, as well as their inevitable decline. Michele Placido’s film is based on a novel of the same name which, in turn, grew out of the story of a real-life Roman gang that was active from 1977-1992. Because of the film’s roots in reality, one assumes that it has a special power and immediacy to Italian audiences; this may well explain that country’s enthusiastic response a film that, while sporadically engaging, is also over-long (a punishing 150 minutes) and poorly-paced.

After completing their first stints in jail, a group of friends are brought together by the one known as Lebanese (as a teen, he named himself after the source of the hash he liked to smoke) to kidnap a wealthy man for ransom. Though the group is a fairly large one, a small core quickly emerges, and it is on those three men -- Lebanese (Pierfrancesco Favino), Ice (Kim Rossi Stuart), and Dandy (Claudio Santamaria) -- that Crime Novel keeps its focus. The kidnapping doesn’t go quite as planned, but the group nevertheless ends up with a substantial ransom, the majority of which Lebanese persuades them to invest in drugs. Instead of steering clear of the crime gangs that dominate Rome, under Lebanese's leadership, they make brutal, unexpected war on those in power, gleefully killing anyone who stands in their way.