Let Him Have It

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Let Him Have It
Let Him Have It (UK film).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPeter Medak
Produced by
  • Luc Roeg
  • Robert Warr
Written byNeal Purvis
Robert Wade
Music byMichael Kamen
CinematographyOliver Stapleton
Edited byRay Lovejoy
  • British Screen Productions
  • Canal+
  • Film Trustees Ltd.
  • Jennie and Company
  • Pierson
  • Vermillion
  • Vivid Entertainment
Distributed by
Release date
  • 4 October 1991 (1991-10-04) (UK)
Running time
115 min
Box office$88,686

Let Him Have It is a 1991 British drama film directed by Peter Medak and starring Christopher Eccleston, Paul Reynolds, Tom Courtenay and Tom Bell. The film is based on the true story of Derek Bentley.[1]

The true story of the case ended with Bentley hanged for murder under controversial circumstances on 28 January 1953.[2] While Bentley did not directly play a role in the murder of PC Sidney Miles, he received a greater punishment than the gunman (who was 16).

Plot summary[edit]

Derek Bentley (Eccleston) is an illiterate, epileptic young adult with developmental disabilities who falls into a gang led by a younger teenager named Christopher Craig (Reynolds). During the course of the robbery of a warehouse in Croydon, in which Bentley is encouraged to participate by Craig, the two become trapped by the police. Officers order Craig to put down his gun. Bentley, who by this time has already been arrested, shouts "Let him have it, Chris" – whether he means the phrase literally ("Let him have the gun") or figuratively ("Open fire!") is unclear. Craig begins firing, killing one officer and wounding another. Because he is a minor, Craig is given a prison sentence for the crime. Meanwhile, Bentley is sentenced to death under the English common law principle of joint enterprise, on the basis that his statement to Craig was an instigation to begin shooting. Bentley's family begins an effort for clemency which reaches Parliament. However, the Home Secretary (who has the power to commute the death sentence) declines to intervene. Despite his family's efforts and some public support, Bentley is executed in 1953 within a month of being convicted, before Parliament takes any official action.



Paul Bergman and Michael Asimow call attention to the cross examination scene, where "the camera closes in on [Bentley's] bruised face as the prosecutor and judge bombard him with questions he can barely comprehend."[1]

The film's end titles state that Bentley's sister, Iris, was still fighting for his pardon. Seven years after the film was made and after numerous unsuccessful campaigns to get Derek Bentley a full pardon, his conviction was eventually overturned by the Court of Appeal on 30 July 1998, one year after Iris's death.[3]


The film gained positive reviews from critics. It holds an 84% approval rating from the review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes based on 37 reviews, with an average rating of 7.7/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Led by a gripping performance from Christopher Eccleston, Let Him Have It sounds a compelling call for justice on behalf of its real-life protagonist."[4]

Tom Wiener said that the film displayed the writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade's "outrage toward a system hell-bent on vengeance"[5] and John Ivan Simon called the script "first rate, no nonsense".[6]


  1. ^ a b Bergman, Paul; Asimow, Michael (2006). Reel Justice: The Courtroom Goes to the Movies. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 47. ISBN 9780740754609. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
  2. ^ Hopeless, Bob (17 March 2006). "'Let Him Have It!' - The Case of Bentley and Craig". h2g2. BBC. Archived from the original on 6 April 2009. Retrieved 3 April 2011.
  3. ^ "Craig's relief at Bentley Pardon". BBC News. BBC. 30 July 1998. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
  4. ^ "Let Him Have It (1991)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
  5. ^ Wiener, Tom (1 August 2002). The Off-Hollywood Film Guide: The Definitive Guide to Independent and Foreign Films on Video and DVD. New York: Random House Digital. p. 369. ISBN 9780812992076. Retrieved 27 October 2012.
  6. ^ Simon, John Ivan (2005). John Simon On Film: Criticism, 1982-2001. Milwaukee: Applause Theatre & Cinema Books. ISBN 9781557835079. Retrieved 24 October 2012.

External links[edit]