Gangster No.1


Viewed – 21 October 2007  Television 

I had seen bits of this many times, especially the notorious blood soaked murder scene the film has become known for.  Seasoned character actor Malcolm McDowell plays an ageing gang boss who gets itchy feet on hearing his former rival is being released from prison.  We then have a lengthy flash back to McDowell’s rise to power with his younger self played menacingly by Paul Bettany.  This east-end Gangster yarn is similar in tone to The Krays, and is almost as unflinchingly violent.  Bettany’s never named character (an idea later copied for Layer Cake) is the ambitious hoodlum who is hell bent on becoming the boss of gangland 60s London, and finds increasingly brutal ways to over throw his mentor, played with style by David Thewlis (someone I had never considered ‘mob’ material until now).

What we have here is an engrossing yarn, that ticks all the boxes, but does also seem a little amateurish in places, and Malcom McDowell’s voice-over does grate due to its obvious cockney-sparrow excess.  Also as the lead, Bettany has little to say and is very unlikeable…and you find yourself routing for his rivals rather than him.  Yet this is still enjoyable stuff…as said rather nasty when the violence comes, but also has a personality that gives it it’s own feel outside of Snatch, Layer Cake and The Krays.

Verdict:  3 /5

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