Movie Reviews (such as they are)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Gangster No.1

gangsterno1.jpgThe British movie Gangster No.1 is based on a stage play. The main reason I have been so slow in watching this film is because I saw the play, on its debut run, 11 years ago, back in September 1995 at the Almeida Theatre in Islington, north London. Here's me holding up my copy of the programme. Despite being a one-time acting student and having directed a couple of short plays and a short film, I've never been a massive fan of the theatre. I was always more of a film guy. Gangster No.1, the play, changed that for me, opening a whole new door. It was fucking phenomenal. It was essentially a one-man play starring Peter Bowles (of "I'm H-A-P-P-Y" fame), who gave the sort of performance that can make careers for younger men. The fact that Bowles's performance was so good is why I approached the film with trepidation. I like Malcolm McDowell, but he can be a bit hammy, y'know?

Synopsis: An aging gangster looks back over his violent past when he hears his former boss is being released after 25 years in prison.

The review: As I said above, I'm not McDowell's biggest fan, and he is a touch too muggy in this, for my liking, but he has far less screen time than Paul Bettany, who plays him as a young man. Bettany is a standout in his breakthrough role. The only negative comment I would make is this: It seemed odd to have Bettany be the only actor who doesn't play the same character later in life. All his contemporaries are played by the same actors in both their 1960s and 1990s incarnations. The look and feel of the film is spot on. I'd say this is up there with the best British gangster film, Get Carter, and dare I say it's even better than The Long Good Friday, although it's been a while since I last saw it. It also scores very highly on what I shall henceforth call the "cunt count"; it may have already knocked The Football Factory off the top spot. A comparison with Sexy Beast, by the same authors originally, would be interesting.

The numbers: This film impressed me much more than I had expected. Indeed, I rushed out and bought the DVD. I award it 82 points.