Look into my eyes! Gangster No. 1 is directed by Paul McGuigan and written by Johnny Ferguson, Louis Mellis and David Scinto. It stars David Thewlis, Paul Bettany, Malcolm McDowell, Saffron Burrows, Kenneth Cranham, Jamie Foreman and Eddie Marsan. Music is by John Dankworth and cinematography by Peter Sova. Gangster 55 (McDowell/Bettany as the younger version) looks back on his brutal life, on how he became a gangster... The British gangster genre of film was gathering apace in 2000. Guy Ritchie's Snatch would wow critics later in the year, while Ben Kingsley's ferocious turn in Sexy Beast (David Scinto and Louis Mellis co-write on that as well) would even get an Oscar nomination, yet Gangster No. 1 is the equal of both films but still doesn't have the acclaim afforded the others - undeservedly so. Predominantly set in the late 60s, with period flavours strong, pic doesn't pull its punches, and yet it is never over gratuitous with the violence and mania (but you do feel it big time) that surrounds Gangster 55 (Bettany brilliantly feral and frightening). It's with the characterisations where McGuigan's film gets its strength, we witness greed, blood lust and the yearning of power via chilling portrayals, set to the back drop of a scuzzy London underworld where even the vermin don't dare to dwell. This is a film not wanting to be loved thematically, but the top performances across the board and pic's ability to grab you by the throat - to not let go - makes it a rip-snorting slice of evil. Essential for those interested in the British gangster film revival of the noughties. 8/10
**It's not a movie for everyone, it's extremely violent and tense, but it works very well.** It's not easy to make a good gangster movie. Sometimes it feels like they've done everything that could possibly be appealing or challenging, and that each new production is limited to chewing on and revisiting what's already been done by others, usually better. This film, set in London, brings us into a universe of violence and tension, of envy and madness, which is refreshingly dark and appealing, yet not really new. The screenplay follows the criminal path of a British mobster whose name is never revealed and who, due to his brutality and competence, becomes one of the trusted men of Freddy Mays, one of the crime lords in London in the late 60s. However, he is ambitious, and his desire is, in the future, to be like his boss is: brutal, ruthless, but elegant and sober. It's a film where we follow the same character through thirty years of ultraviolence (I'm not using this word randomly, as you'll see) and sheer madness. The cast has several strong names, and the main character is played by two actors: in the older chronologies, it is Paul Bettany, and today, it is the experienced and skilled Malcolm McDowell, who has participated in other intense films, such as _Clockwork Orange_. In fact, I can't help but think that Alex, the main character of that movie, iconic in this actor's career, could have evolved into a twisted and crazed figure like the one McDowell played here. The impeccable work, both his and Bettany's, is one of the pillars that sustains this film and that makes it truly intense and enjoyable. Both have memorable lines and dialogue. Another truly outstanding actor is David Thewlis, who harmoniously combines harshness and brutality with the sensitivity and almost aristocratic good manners with which he moves among other criminals. Saffron Burrows is beautiful, and works great as a love interest. The rest of the cast just tries to keep up with the main actors. On a technical level, the film does a truly brilliant job of building and controlling the environment... the film knows how to build and manipulate the dramatic tension, letting it build up as time goes by, until a climax where we feel the lack of control and the loss of the notion of reality experienced by the central character. The slightly blurry cinematography, with many of the scenes shot at night or in low-light places (bars, rundown apartments, etc.), or the personality of the character, which shatters) or that scene where the camera puts itself in the skin of a man about to be brutally murdered, and we end up being invited to feel that moment, the fragility and mental weakness that takes over. of a man facing death, certain and painful. The movie's speech is full of profanity and rude words, but that's something inevitable, given the movie that it is. However, I recognize that it is not a film for any audience, it is extremely violent and brutal. Finally, a word for the soundtrack, impeccable and very well conceived.
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