Fact blends with fiction in 1992, the latest Italian drama series to arrive in the US and the first to feature the political corruption scandals that rocked Italy in the early ’90s.
Set primarily in Milan and Rome against the backdrop of the Tangentopoli or Mani Pulite (Clean Hands) national anti-corruption investigation, which led to the collapse of Italy’s post-World War II First Republic government, 1992 follows six people whose lives become inextricably entwined during the course of this watershed year in Italy’s history.
The central figure is Leonardo Notte (Stefano Accorsi, Romanzo Criminale, The Last Kiss), a handsome, charming marketing exec and pleasure-seeker with a fast-track career and skeleton in his closet, one that comes back to haunt him when someone from his past reminds him of his long-forgotten secret.
Leo is the on-again, off-again lover of Veronica Castello (Miriam Leone, Distretto di Polizia), a beautiful wanna-be TV starlet who uses her sexuality to get close to men in positions to help her on her way to fame and fortune. Surprisingly, this includes Pietro Bosco (Guido Caprino, Inspector Manara, In Treatment), a feckless, hot-headed, and none-too-bright former Iraq War soldier who manages to get elected as a member of the Lega Nord (Northern League) party.
Investigating Veronica’s sugar daddy is Luca Pastore (Domenico Diele, Don Matteo), a young member of the judicial police squad with professional and personal motives for wanting to bring down the business tycoon who is father to “Bibi” Mainaghi (Tea Falco, The Young Montalbano). She’s a spoiled, emotionally-dependent, black-sheep party girl who unwittingly becomes a pawn in her father’s business. And Luca’s colleague is Rocco Venturi (Alessandro Roja, Romanzo Criminale), a cop with a lot of debts, few morals, and something that could net him a bundle.
The ten-part series opens with the arrest of Socialist Party member Mario Chiesa on 17 February 1992, the spark that ignites the nationwide Clean Hands investigation. As the drama unfolds, the interconnected stories of the six characters play out with those of actual persons on both sides of the investigation, from politicians and businessmen such as Gaetano Nobile (Gianfelice Imparato, Gomorrah) and future Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi, to Public Prosecutor Antonio Di Pietro (Antonio Gerardi, Romanzo Criminale) and anti-Mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, both of whom were murdered within two months of each other in 1992.
Although the factual elements make up a key strand in 1992, the series isn’t about the corruption investigation. Rather, the investigation serves as a framework for the human dramas about people who must face the truth of who they are and what they’ve done, choose between fulfilling desires and maintaining integrity, and take actions to survive or face failure or worse.
What makes 1992 a gritty and intriguing political thriller are the corruption storyline and performances by Stefano Accorsi, Guido Caprino, and Miriam Leone. Accorsi’s attractive, well-dressed, sexed-up Leo is a walking, talking invitation to escapist viewing. For fans of the Inspector Manara TV series, Caprino is barely recognizable as Pietro. The curly locks and mustache of the happy-go-lucky, can-do detective are replaced by the shaved head and face of a surly brute who screws up everything. And Leone is superb as Veronica, eliciting a sense of disgust and contempt for her character in one moment and utter pity in the very next.
Domenico Diele, Tea Falco, and Alessandro Roja are fine in their roles, but their characters are as clichéd as, but less compelling than, the others. The most interesting thing about Luca is the backstory of his revenge. Bibi, who speaks in the same near-lifeless monotone as a businesswoman than as the drugged-up rich girl lost (which irked me to no end) is plain bland. And if it weren’t for the one thread in which Rocco plays an integral part, which occurs as a gimme in order for Leo to have a heftier “oh, merda” to deal with, the character could have been dispensed with.
Still, I give 1992 ★★★1/2 out of 5.
Based on an idea by series star Stefano Accorsi, written by Alessandro Fabbri (In Treatment), Ludovica Rampoldi (Gomorrah), and Stefano Sardo (In Treatment), and directed by filmmaker Giuseppe Gagliardi (Tatanka), 1992 premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February. It debuted on television with a simulcast across all Sky channels in Europe in March, and is now streaming in the US, in Italian with English subtitles, exclusively at Netflix.