Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Gangster No. 1 (2000)

Director: Paul McGuigan

Writers: Johnny Ferguson, Louis Mellis, David Scinto

Composer: John Dankworth

Starring: Malcolm McDowell, David Thewlis, Paul Bettany, Saffron Burrows, Kenneth Cranham, Jamie Foreman, Eddie Marsan, Andrew Lincoln, Doug Allen, Razaaq Adoti, Cavan Clerkin, David Kennedy, Johnny Harris, Anton Saunders

More info: IMDb

Tagline: There can only be ONE.

Plot: A middle-aged crime boss smugly reflects back from 1999, narrating the brutality which made him triumphant - and feared. As an unnamed young hood in Swinging 60's London, he aped his mod boss Freddie Mays, and seemed to do anything for him. But his narration exposes all-consuming envy: of Freddie's supremacy, and especially his tall bird. The baby shark develops his viciousness and backstabbing, scheming to be Gangster No. 1.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

When I first watched this many years ago, I didn't like it.  I found it dull, lifeless with a poor performance by McDowell.  I must've had a bad day or something because now I really dig it.  The younger version of McDowell (played by Paul Bettany) isn't all that exciting, at least his character isn't.  Well, he's just not that interesting because he plays a bastard that wants to be No. 1.  He really doesn't have any redeeming qualities and neither does his older self.

David Thewlis (as the likable and charismatic Freddie Mays), on the other hand, is a fun character.  He's the one I'd like to see more stories about.  I assume that's intentional.  Maybe someday I'll listen to the commentary and watch the extras in the hopes that there are some bits of info that make this story more interesting.

The set design is great.  I would have liked McGuigan & pals to have done more would be to dirty up the film to make the 60s/70s bits look like they were shot then.  It's an interesting picture that builds to the moment when Freddie visits McDowell.  I liked where both characters were, psychologically, but more so for Freddie.  And then there's the very nice ending.  If you digs your British crime films then this is a no-brainer.  It's not great (I'm still not entirely sold on McDowell's hateful performance - it's a bit much) but there are some great things in it and it will satisfy fans of the genre.

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