Gangster No. 1
|Gangster No. 1|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Paul McGuigan|
|Produced by||Norma Heyman
|Written by||Johnny Ferguson
|Release date(s)||June 9, 2000|
|Running time||103 min.|
Gangster No. 1 is a 2000 British crime film (based on the play Gangster No.1 by Louis Mellis and David Scinto) directed by Paul McGuigan. It stars Paul Bettany in the title role, and features Malcolm McDowell, David Thewlis and Saffron Burrows.
The film opens with an unnamed, veteran British gangster (McDowell) attending a boxing match with friends. Upon hearing in conversation that a gangster by the name of Freddie Mays is to be released from prison after completing a 30-year sentence, he becomes upset and leaves without a word.
The narrative moves back in time to the 1960s, showing a younger Gangster (Bettany). He comes to the attention of a very influential London gangster, Freddie Mays (Thewlis), who recruits him to be an enforcer. The Gangster is eager to please, and while his violent actions at first dismay Mays, he soon proves his loyalty to Mays with creative ways of murder. However, the Gangster quickly becomes obsessed with and deeply jealous of Mays' glamourous lifestyle and success.
The Gangster soon discovers that Mays' main rival, Lennie Taylor (Jamie Foreman), is planning on killing Mays. Instead of warning his boss, the Gangster decides to let the attack take place, killing the only other member of his own gang who knew of the impending attack. It goes on as planned, and the Gangster sits in a car nearby to watch as Lennie and his gang shoot and stab Mays and slit the throat of his fiancée, Karen (Saffron Burrows). Later that same night the Gangster goes to Lennie's flat, shoots him in the leg, and then tortures him to death.
The Gangster discovers the following day that Mays did not die in the attack, and is hospitalised. Upon Mays' recovery, he is unjustly convicted of Taylor's murder and sent to prison for a 30-year sentence. With Mays out of his way, the Gangster becomes leader of the gang and consolidates his power over the city's underworld. In a sequence spanning the intervening years between 1968 and 1999, he organizes a bank heist, opens a casino, fixes horse races, and builds his gang to over 300 men. The film's narrative returns to the aged Gangster at the boxing event.
The Gangster discovers that Karen also did not die, and is due to marry Mays, who has left prison a changed man. Meeting Mays in the flat that once belonged to him, the Gangster angrily denounces Mays, but Mays seemingly has no fight left in him, wanting only to marry Karen and retire in peace. The Gangster is infuriated that Mays is seemingly happier with nothing than the Gangster is with everything, and threatens Mays with a gun. He then gives Mays the gun and begs him to kill him, but Mays leaves.
The film closes with the Gangster, having apparently lost his mind, committing suicide by stepping off the top of a building, with his last words being "I'm number one".
- Malcolm McDowell as Gangster 55
- David Thewlis as Freddie Mays
- Paul Bettany as Young Gangster
- Saffron Burrows as Karen
- Kenneth Cranham as Tommy
- Jamie Foreman as Lennie Taylor
- Eddie Marsan as Eddie Miller
- Andrew Lincoln as Maxie King
- Martin Wimbush as Judge
- Sean Chapman as Bent Cop
The film was met with a generally positive critical reception and currently holds a "Certified Fresh" score of 73% at Rotten Tomatoes based on 51 reviews. Critics disliked the violence present throughout the movie but praised the performances and style.
Real life references
- Freddy Mays is based on real-life mobster Frankie Fraser.
- Jamie Foreman is the son of real-life gangster Freddie Foreman.
- Adam Dawtrey (2010-01-14). "Louis Mellis and David Scinto: Partners in and out of crime | Film". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-11-15.
- Taylor, Paul (1995-09-07). "Theatre; GANGSTER NO 1; Almeida Theatre, London". The Independent (London).