Gangster No. 1

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Gangster No. 1
Gangster No 1.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPaul McGuigan
Produced byNorma Heyman
Jonathan Cavendish
Screenplay byJohnny Ferguson
Louis Mellis
David Scinto[1]
Based onGangster No.1 (play)
by Louis Mellis
David Scinto
Music byJohn Dankworth
CinematographyPeter Sova
Adrian Biddle
Edited byAndrew 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 byFilmFour
Release date
9 June 2000 (2000-06-09)
Running time
103 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
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 another gangster, 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, and he kills 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 Mays' 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 the 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 Mays' 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 Mays to kill him; Mays leaves.

The film closes with the Gangster, having apparently lost his mind and committing suicide by stepping off the top of a building. His last words: "I'm number one".



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


Critical response[edit]

The film was met with a generally positive critical reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it holds a score of 71% based on 52 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.[3] On Metacritic the film has a score of 60 out of 100, based on reviews from 15 critics.[4]

Clark Collis of Empire magazine gives the film 3 out of 5 stars. Collis calls the film "A stylistically superb jaunt through psychotically Swinging London" and praises the "scene stealing" performances of Bettany and McDowell but reserves his highest praises for photographer-turned-director McGuigan.[5] Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian calls it "a powerful and serious film [...] a miasma of hysteria and anxiety - a real addition to the British crime canon."[6]

Box office[edit]

The film grossed $30,915 at the North American box office.[7]


  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.
  3. ^ "Gangster No. 1". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  4. ^ "Gangster No. 1". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  5. ^ Collis, Clark. "Gangster No. 1". Empire magazine. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  6. ^ Peter Bradshaw (9 June 2000). "Gangster No 1". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  7. ^ "Gangster No. 1 (2002)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 23 October 2018.

External links[edit]