Gangster No. 1

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Gangster No. 1
Gangster No 1.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Paul McGuigan
Produced by Norma Heyman
Jonathan Cavendish
Screenplay by Johnny Ferguson
Louis Mellis
David Scinto[1]
Based on Gangster No.1 (play)
by Louis Mellis
David Scinto
Starring Malcolm McDowell
Paul Bettany
David Thewlis
Saffron Burrows
Music by John Dankworth
Cinematography Peter Sova
Adrian Biddle
Edited by Andrew Hulme
FilmFour Productions
Pagoda Film and Television Corporation
Road Movies Filmproduktion
British Screen Productions
British Sky Broadcasting
Filmboard Berlin-Brandenburg (FBB)
NFH Productions
Little Bird
Distributed by FilmFour
Release date
9 June 2000 (2000-06-09)
Running time
103 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office $30,915

Gangster No. 1 is a 2000 British crime drama film directed by Paul McGuigan and starring Paul Bettany in the title role. It is based on the play Gangster No.1 by Louis Mellis and David Scinto,[2] and features Malcolm McDowell, David Thewlis and Saffron Burrows.


The film opens with an unnamed British veteran gangster (McDowell) attending a boxing match with friends. Hearing in conversation that a gangster by the name of Freddie Mays is to be released from prison after 30-years, he becomes upset and leaves without a word.

The narrative flashes back to the 1960s, showing a younger Gangster (Bettany). He comes to the attention of an influential London gangster, Freddie Mays (Thewlis) who recruits him as an enforcer. The Gangster is eager to please; his violence at first impresses Mays, and he soon proves his loyalty with creative methods of murder. The Gangster quickly becomes obsessed with and deeply jealous of Mays' glamorous lifestyle and success.

The Gangster discovers that Mays' rival, Lennie Taylor (Jamie Foreman), is planning to kill 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 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 night, the Gangster goes to Lennie's flat, shoots him in the leg and then tortures him to death.

The Gangster discovers next day that Mays did not die but was hospitalised. Mays is unjustly convicted of Taylor's murder and sent to prison for 30 years. 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 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 narrative returns to the aged Gangster at the boxing event.

The Gangster discovers that Karen also survived and is due to marry Mays, who has left prison a changed man. The men meet in May's old flat. The Gangster angrily denounces Mays, who seemingly has no fight left in him, wanting only to marry Karen and retire in peace. The Gangster threatens Mays with a gun, then gives Mays the gun and begs him to kill him; 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".



Jamie Foreman is the son of real-life gangster Freddie Foreman.


Critical reception[edit]

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 with an average rating of 6.4/10, the site's consensus reads: "Gangster No. 1 is brutally violent, yet also compelling." Critics disliked the violence present throughout the movie but praised the performances and style.


  1. ^ Adam Dawtrey (2010-01-14). "Louis Mellis and David Scinto: Partners in and out of crime | Film". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-11-15. 
  2. ^ Taylor, Paul (1995-09-07). "Theatre; GANGSTER NO 1; Almeida Theatre, London". The Independent. London. 

External links[edit]