Gangster No. 1

There can only be ONE!

Action Drama Thriller
103 min     6.6     2000     Germany


An old gangster is advised that Freddie Mays would leave jail after thirty years in prison. His mood changes and he recalls when he was a young punk and who joined Freddie's gang—a man he both envied and ultimately betrayed.


John Chard wrote:
Look into my eyes! Gangster No. 1 is directed by Paul McGuigan and written by Johnny Ferguson, Louis Mellis and David Scinto. It stars David Thewlis, Paul Bettany, Malcolm McDowell, Saffron Burrows, Kenneth Cranham, Jamie Foreman and Eddie Marsan. Music is by John Dankworth and cinematography by Peter Sova. Gangster 55 (McDowell/Bettany as the younger version) looks back on his brutal life, on how he became a gangster... The British gangster genre of film was gathering apace in 2000. Guy Ritchie's Snatch would wow critics later in the year, while Ben Kingsley's ferocious turn in Sexy Beast (David Scinto and Louis Mellis co-write on that as well) would even get an Oscar nomination, yet Gangster No. 1 is the equal of both films but still doesn't have the acclaim afforded the others - undeservedly so. Predominantly set in the late 60s, with period flavours strong, pic doesn't pull its punches, and yet it is never over gratuitous with the violence and mania (but you do feel it big time) that surrounds Gangster 55 (Bettany brilliantly feral and frightening). It's with the characterisations where McGuigan's film gets its strength, we witness greed, blood lust and the yearning of power via chilling portrayals, set to the back drop of a scuzzy London underworld where even the vermin don't dare to dwell. This is a film not wanting to be loved thematically, but the top performances across the board and pic's ability to grab you by the throat - to not let go - makes it a rip-snorting slice of evil. Essential for those interested in the British gangster film revival of the noughties. 8/10