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Overall Rating

Awesome: 25.81%
Worth A Look58.06%
Just Average: 6.45%
Pretty Crappy: 3.23%
Sucks: 6.45%

2 reviews, 19 user ratings

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Gangster No. 1
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by punkass

"Dark as Marmite and just as disgusting, almost a classic."
4 stars

If there's one thing Britain doesn't need right now it's another post-'Lock, Stock...' Gangster flick. These have been pumping out at about one a month now showing the absolute lack of originality and talent which is endemic to the scene. But a whisper started going around... 'This one's quite good'. And you know what, they're right.

One of the most constantly annoying things about the rest of the movies is their glamorisation of the gangsters. Some feature gun battles, which, quite frankly, just don't happen over here. Some are set nowadays, which is ridiculous as since the Yardies and so on have taken over, the traditional 'kind to his mum' East End gangster has totally disappeared. This one is different.

Narrated from the point of view of an old gangster survivor (McDowell) looking back over his life, the story mainly concerns his ascendance from no-one to no. one during the late sixties and early seventies. It makes chilling and quite frankly disturbing watching. The psychosis of the gangster (we're never told his name) is portrayed vividly and without much letting up. It explores his reasons and gives you an idea of how his mind works.

The thing that draws the most attention is the acting. Bettany plays the lead to perfection. For a relatively new actor to give such a compelling performance is unusual to say the least. After this I wouldn't like to meet him down a dark alley, he scares the crap out of me. In some scenes the sense of dread that he exhales is palpable.

This film also heralds the Big Screen return of McDowell. I was struck by how old he looks, although could just be make-up. He reminded me of Sting, but he still has the scariest eyes out of anyone ever. They radiate something terrifying, which is particularly appropriate for this character. Whilst he doesn't give the best performance, you have to wonder how his career would have gone if he hadn't appeared in Caligula and thus been banished to video games and dodgy TV. He played a character called Dominic T. Stilton in Biker Mice from Mars for Chrissakes!

The direction has some interesting choices, not all of which work. When they do, however, the effect can be breathtaking. Whilst one central scene might capture most of the interest (and disgust - although the film is never overly graphic), for me it is the scene immediately prior to this which is amazing. McGuigan certainly knows how to build tension, and the music which accompanies some of the scenes is perfect - especially if you liked 'Singing in the Rain' in A Clockwork Orange.

The story is original and well accomplished considering it is Ferguson's first screenplay. The fact that there was a real life gangster on set helping with the realism has definitely worked. To me the story could probably best be pitched as American Psycho if it wasn't a satire, and was set in London's 60's ganglands. Yet there is more to this than pure bloodlust. And whilst it is never graphic, this is as unpleasant a viewing experience as watching Deliverance. Mind you I fucking hated that, all that left me with was a deep abiding fear of the South. This at least has a point.

This film isn't as good as Get Carter (the original, natch), or even The Long Good Friday, but it can at least be mentioned in the same breath. Hopefully it should deflate any attempts to make more shitty gangster movies, as it exposes just how shite they are. Oh, and if you're offended by swearing then you'll hate it. A lot.

I'm going to recommend that you catch this if you can, and if you have the stomach for it. It isn't enjoyable, but it is an intense cinematic experience, and it is well done. Certain scenes will last in your mind for a long time, and considering that almost everyone involved is relatively new, it is both brave and a triumph. Not perfect, but a good effort.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=1957&reviewer=215
originally posted: 06/20/00 18:54:52
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User Comments

3/25/05 james violent,stylish,sick hgumored 4 stars
9/05/04 stfu kicks ass like only David Thewlis can 5 stars
1/19/04 Chuckie Atkins Jr. Paul Bettany is outstanding in this film! His Hollywood roles do him no justice. 4 stars
9/15/03 francis Barely interesting story of a sicko, with insufficient build-up to justify the end 3 stars
1/26/03 Artist Freak Despite being spot on in many respects this movie manages to be rather bad. 2 stars
1/02/03 Stevo incredibly, a good british gangster movie. bettany/mcdowell are a memorably horrible shit 4 stars
10/13/02 Joe Blow AWESOME! 5 stars
8/08/02 hellot186 i haven't seen this. i've seen only the preview, like most of the us public. i love it. 5 stars
7/08/02 iambubby Welcome to the 7th circle of suck... 1 stars
6/14/02 Bob Evans This movie was really a piece of garbage. I expected more than this. 1 stars
3/30/02 Monster W. Kung Interesting, but somewhat half-assed. McDowell was miscast. 3 stars
2/23/02 Caiphn Incredible killing scene 4 stars
10/24/01 Bill Gains This is the best movie of the year. SEE IT! THE death scene was original and well-filmed 5 stars
8/05/01 peter punt great gangstermovie, frightening, but good 5 stars
7/09/01 Dave Disturbing and funny, loved the look of 60's London 4 stars
7/07/01 Reini Urban Perfect watch, but McDowell at the end spoils it all. 4 stars
1/19/01 gazmend kuqi perfection is definitely british, it's a trip 5 stars
1/14/01 Jamie Can't get enough of this film. Paul Bettany's a star: I haven't been so scared before ;-) 5 stars
11/07/00 Jo Farr is a loser Jo Farr is a loser 5 stars
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  14-Jun-2002 (R)



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