Forgot your password?
Don't have an account? Sign up here
Got more questions about news letters?
Already have an account? Log in here
and the Terms and Policies,
and to receive email from Rotten Tomatoes and Fandango.
Please enter your email address and we will email you a new password.
We encourage our community to report abusive content and/ or spam. Our team will review flagged items and determine whether or not they meet our community guidelines.
Please choose best explanation for why you are flagging this review.
Thank you for your submission. This post has been submitted for our review.
Sincerely, The Rotten Tomatoes Team
not overly impressed
With not so much more, could have been way better! Gangster No.1 is lost in a limbo between a quirky and a classic work. Just like the main character, doesn't know what it want to be. Wants to be something else, but again like Malcolm McDowell, it just cannot find the way.
Great tone throughout and great cast.
A middle-aged crime boss (Malcolm McDowell) smugly reflects back from 1999, narrating the brutality which made him triumphant - and feared. As an unnamed young hood (Paul Bettany) in Swinging 60's London, he comes to the attention of a very influential London gangster, Freddie Mays (David 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' glamorous lifestyle and success and he is scheming to become Gangster No. 1. 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 his recovery, Mays 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. But, when Mays is finally released on 1999, The Gangster simply can´t get over the fact that Mays never respected him and the crime empire he has built. He seeks a confrontation...
Gangster No. 1 is a stylish, brutal and black drama with comic undertones, but it also tries to be a hip crime-flick showing us the past and the present in one package. It´s hardly an original set up, the gangster genre has been so diluted since "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels", with the young gangster trying to take over the older gangster´s empire. Paul Bettany´s performance stands out and he manages to be menacing, extremely violent and off his rockers. While Malcolm McDowell adds weight to the film, I personally think that he doesn´t manage to channelise Bettany´s gangster into an older version as they seems to be different in many ways (height, looks, voice etc). The crazy, electric, calculating and vicious gangster is gone, maybe due to age, but it doesn´t really add up. And I hear too much Alex de Large in Malcolm McDowell´s narrative. Plus the final confrontation ends in nothing special. I reckon you´d think that it would be more explosive. Or that´s just what the filmmaker wanted. The gangster simply never got a conclusion with his rivalry towards Mays and what he did to Mays. And the homage to James Cagney doesn´t fully work. "Gangster No. 1" is ok, but maybe adds not that much new to the genre.
I'm really done with cockney gangster films now, well I have been for a long time. It's astonishing that the UK just keeps on churning these out in the same way the U.S. did with mob movies, where are the original thinkers these days. Malcolm McDowell is guilty of overacting and I was surprised that Thewlis would get involved in such a film, especially as he was pretty miscast. The story is probably the only redeeming feature as it is not as bad as it could have been.
Malcolm McDowell, Malcolm "facking" McDowell
As excellent Paul Bettany was at playing Malcolm MacDowell, the whole thing got dragged down in being really psychotic.
Brutal, vicious, well acted, and over the top british thriller with a menacing and wonderful lead performance from Paul Bettany. The actors are all good but the film loses its energy and uniqueness by the end. we end up wonderfing is that all there is and why do we want to care about a bad man without any redeeming qualities. It could have been a classic.
Superb performance by Malcolm McDowel !
Outstanding British crime drama. Paul Bettany channels a bit of Alex Delarge in his performance. I'm amazed I hadn't seen this sooner.