Gangster Number One review by The Grim Ringler

Gangster Number One

If you have seen a British gangster film you have sorta seen them all. Guy Richie, of late is the only bloke that sorta seems to add any flavor to it all. Which is not to say that this is a bad film, not at all, but to say that the Brit gangster movie, like the American gangster movie, is out of gas.

Gangster Number One follows a nameless young hood with aspirations at being made. Having heard of our no-named ‘hero’s’ reputation, gangster Freddy Mays(David – yes I had sex with Fairuza Balk – Thewlis), known for his charm and good looks, takes the kid on as one of his henchmen and in no time begins to treat him as a son. But while Freddy is beginning to treat our boy more and more like an equal and less like a subordinate, the protagonist (it’s a drag not having a name for him dagnabbit) begins looking at Freddy hungrily, greedily, wanting not just what Freddy has but what Freddy is. And when a rival gangster fingers Freddy for permanent dismissal our boy realizes his golden opportunity and takes it, neglecting to inform Freddy that there is a plan out there to ambush and whack him. So the hit goes down and as it does the nameless protagonist watches gleefully from his car, laughing as Freddy and his fiancée are brutally murdered and seemingly die together miserably. So suddenly our boy is the main man, the number one gangster to quote the title, but something is wrong, something is missing, even though he has the power, the wealth, and the control he longed for. He isn’t satisfied. And, now, as an man entering the middle part of his years he is faced with the ghosts of Freddy and his fiancée, both having survived their attack (Freddy also having just been released from prison after being accused and found guilty of a retribution murder that Mr. Nameless did) and he must now face the truth of it all – that he is a fraud. A fake. That he is no one.

This is a pretty good movie, thought not one that will stay with you long i fear. It's shot well enough, and the acting is superb on the whole, but it all feels more than faintly 'been there done that'. And to be honest, as a gangster movie it’s simply ok, but as a look into the mind of a social chameleon, a shadow, it’s brilliant. Malcolm McDowell is wonderful as the middle-aged lead, as is the actor that portrays him as a younger man, almost channeling the energy McDowell used in A Clockwork Orange. The entire movie centers on this man, who oddly enough is never named, that never finds his own place or identity and thus steals the identity of the person he admires most. But even in doing so there is no pleasure to be had in it – it’s a hollow victory because, as Charles Foster Kane learned in Citizen Kane, if no one loves you what good is owning the world? The movie has its problems, chief among them being that it is pretty boring, and gangster movies aren’t really effective if they bore you to death. This is really similar to Sexy Beastin that both are actor-driven vehicles that barely stand on their own but which give the featured actor a wonderful stage to just lay it all out there. And sadly the plot is just a tad too similar to the likes of The Talented Mr. Ripleyto have any real force behind its punches.

There are a few special features to the DVD but in all truth they aren't anything that's going to make you buy it or not. There is a commentary, a pretty pointless extension or outtake of an earlier scene, and an absolutely dreadful featurette. So if you really like the movie, well, the special features aren't exactly going to make your mind up for you on whether to buy it or not.

It’s not a bad rental but I wouldn’t suggest buying it unless you are just a die-hard Malcolm McDowell fan. It isn’t a great movie, it isn’t a bad movie, it’s just sorta above average.


7 out of 10 Jackasses

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