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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
18
Cast
Malcolm McDowell
David Thewlis
Paul Bettany
Saffron Burrows
Jamie Foreman.
Directors
Paul McGuigan.
Screenwriters
Johnny Ferguson.
Running Time
102 minutes

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Gangster No. 1


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Plot
On the eve of his mentor's release from jail, Gangster 55 reflects on the last 30 years of crime and cruelty.


Review
Given the dreadful quality of most post-Smoking Barrels British gangster movies, plus the fact that Malcolm McDowell's recent career has been less than stellar, this '60s-set venture could easily have been lost in the shuffle.

McDowell plays ageing Cockney crook Gangster 55 who, on hearing that the mentor he betrayed three decades previously (Thewlis) is about to be released from jail, finds himself reminiscing about the good old days. At least, they were good for the youthful 55 - a tremendous performance of icy Nietzschean emptiness by Bettany - if not for his soon-to-be-butchered contemporaries. Before long his sights have levelled on Thewlis himself, who the sexually ambivalent Bettany believes has gone soft after falling for nightclub chanteuse, Karen (Burrows).

Finally, with 55 now in control of the entire operation, McDowell leads us through a brief history of the last 30 years (horse race-fixing and lots of bloodshed) before preparing to face both Thewlis and his own demons in the present day.

A stylistically superb jaunt through psychotically Swinging London - where every shoe is handmade and every transgressor a "caaaaahnt!" - Gangster No. 1 benefits from both an ace Johnny Dankworth score and a truly demented turn from McDowell in what must be his best performance since 1971's A Clockwork Orange.

The real plaudits, however, should go to photographer-turned-director McGuigan, whose sharp eye succeeds in stripping away the myth of the luv-a-duck '60s crim while still allowing the audience to wallow in his all-too-enticing lifestyle.


Verdict
The antidote to the 'gore-blimey-g'v'nor' school of gangster film- making. This is sleekly shot and features scene stealing turns by Bettany and McDowell.


Reviewed by Clark Collis

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Gangster No. 1
Empire Star Rating

The year is 1999, Malcolm is savouring his time as Gangster no. 1, supporting his rise to his position we are permitted to flashbacks to 1968 when he was just a young gangster sidekick. The story continues to chronicle his psychopathic brutal acts to become the man he is. Another average gangster movie with a weak story line, no real depth or anything to suck you in. A spiral of kaleidoscopic scenes made it hard to comprehend at times. Although the story was weak, the performance by Paul ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by zedphelan at 14:15, 25 September 2010 | Report This Post


Piece of Crap No. 1

The Krays meet the Talented Mr Ripley, this car crash of a film features a claasy sixties mob boss (Thewlis), being, for want of a better word, stalked by one of his goons, the unamed Gangster 55. 55 is played by two different actors depnding on whether or not we are viewing him in his swinging sixties guise (Paul Bettany, displaying moments of detached coldness which stand above and beyond anything else in this film) or in his contemporary form (McDowell, who gives a performance so shit even hi... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Stevesircull at 13:53, 17 September 2007 | Report This Post


... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by taz_e at 06:44, 15 June 2006 | Report This Post


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