Saturday, December 29, 2012


I watched GANGSTER NO. 1 (2000) yesterday. This bloody British crime film stars Malcolm McDowell as an aged crime boss who, at the beginning of the film, learns that his former boss is about to released from prison. This sets McDowell down memory lane as the action moves to London, 1968 with McDowell providing voice-over narration of his past and his rise to power.
McDowell's gangster character is never given an official name. He's referred to as Gangster No. 1 in the credits (similar to Clint Eastwood's Man-With-No-Name). In the flashback sequence, he's a young thug played by Paul Bettany in the employ of a slick gangster played by David Thewlis. Gangster No. 1 quickly sets out to kill his way to the top and he does so in a series of extremely violent, highly stylized scenes. When Thewlis is sent to prison for a murder that Bettany committed, Bettany assumes full control of the organization and builds it into an empire of crime.
We come back to present day in the third act and it's McDowell, the grizzled veteran, who must face Thewlis upon his release from prison. Things don't go as planned and the ending recalls James Cagney's apocalyptic doom in WHITE HEAT.
GANGSTER NO. 1 is well-made and well-acted but it is extremely violent and laced with profanity. The British accents are a bit hard to understand at times but McDowell delivers a top-notch performance as an irredeemably evil man. If you like hard boiled crime movies, check this one out.

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