Let Him Have It (1991)



Critic Consensus: 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.

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Movie Info

The Derek Bentley Case has been an uneasy blight on the British legal system since the early 1950s. Two young, frightened boys were caught by police trying to break into to a building. One of the boys had a gun. When the policeman reached out to the youth to turn over the gun, his friend shouted "Let him have it," and the policeman was killed by a gun blast. Whether the boy understood "Let him have it" to mean he should turn over the gun or to kill the police officer has been debated ever since. But the result was the 19-year-old boy was executed for the crime -- only to be posthumously exonerated in 1953. In this dark and biting film by Peter Medak, the life of Derek Bentley (Chris Eccleston) that led up to the crime is recreated in pitiful detail, as well as the ensuing trial and execution. The story begins in 1952, when the likable Bentley is released from reform school. Bentley is an impressionable young man who returns home to his loving family -- his parents (Tom Courtenay and Eileen Atkins) and sister (Clare Holman) -- but becomes involved with a group of friends, led by the intimidating Chris (Paul Reynolds), who live in the poverty of post-World War II Britain and escape their bleak world by emulating the American gangster films they see at the local cinema. They play-act at being gansters, but with real guns ... and tragic results.
R (adult situations/language, violence)
Drama , Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
British Screen

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Christopher Eccleston
as Derek Bentley
Paul Reynolds
as Chris Craig
Tom Courtenay
as William Bentley
Tom Bell
as Fairfax
Eileen Atkins
as Lilian Bentley
Mark McGann
as Craig
Michael Gough
as Lord Goddard
Michael Elphick
as Jack the Warder
Murray Melvin
as Secondary School Teacher
Ronald Fraser
as Niven's Judge
Clive Revill
as Pierrepont
James Villiers
as Cassels
Ian Deam
as Terry
Steve Nicholson
as Harrison
Niven Boyd
as McDonald
Peter Eyre
as Humphries
Ben Brazier
as Dennis Bentley
Tony Sands
as Small Boy at School
Charlie Creed-Miles
as Schoolboy in Secondary School
Daniel Brazier
as Boy, Fairview Road
Linda Marlowe
as Reprieve Petition Woman
Gary Francis Hope
as Big Cecil
Peter Jonfield
as Butcher
Rudolph Walker
as West Indian Driver
Delia Lindsay
as Posh TV Lady
Denny Kirk
as Mr. Craig
Lottie Ward
as Mrs. Craig
Victoria Moore
as 9-Year-Old Girl
Glyn Grain
as Father
Karen Lewis
as Mother
William Waghorn
as Police Desk Sergeant
Colin McCormack
as Army Recruit Doctor
Joe Melia
as Harry Proctor
Vernon Dobtcheff
as Clerk of the Court
Jimmy Flint
as Jones, the Prison Warder
Jeremy Sinden
as Reporter
Terence Skelton
as Conservative MP
Arthur Whybrow
as Senior Prison Warder
Peter Eccleston
as Derek (age 8)
Rebecca Eccleston
as Iris (age 10)
Craig Turner
as Derek (age 14)
Geoffrey Drew
as Prison Chaplain
Alan Starkey
as Nightwatchman
Joan Heal
as Lady at Butcher's
James Bowers
as Police Officer
Iain Cuthbertson
as Maxwell-Fyfe
James Snell
as Man in Suit
Linda Bassett
as Mrs. Miles
Viv Warrentz
as Woman with Petition
Karl Johnson
as Parris
Bill Dean
as Foreman on the Jury
Chris Darwin
as Owner of the Milk Bar
Matthew De Vere
as Boy in Nightwatchman's Hut
Micky Poppins
as Boy in Nightwatchman's Hut
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Critic Reviews for Let Him Have It

All Critics (36) | Top Critics (15)

Courtenay slowly works his way into the center of the movie's sympathies. When he embraces his remaining family at the moment of his son's execution, his sorrow seems boundless.

Full Review… | October 28, 2014
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

As the protagonist/victim, Eccleston gives a superb, riveting performance in his feature-film debut, as does Reynolds, another newcomer who deftly handles the role of the gun-crazy and trigger-happy Chris.

Full Review… | October 28, 2014
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

Let Him Have It is unabashedly weighted toward the perspective of the murderer as victim -- a notion that does not enjoy much public currency in our more violent times. But if ever there was a victim of the judicial system, it was Derek Bentley.

Full Review… | October 28, 2014
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic

The script, by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, finds enough quirks in its protagonists to lift them above the issues-movie premise. Michael Kamen's atmospheric chamber score is also crucial to the film's success.

Full Review… | October 28, 2014
Seattle Times
Top Critic

A chiaroscuro drama of unstoppable tragedy.

Full Review… | October 28, 2014
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

Fairness isn't the issue here, dramatic depth is: You don't have to favor capital punishment to feel yourself being manipulated.

Full Review… | October 28, 2014
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Let Him Have It


Quite a strong movie, based on a true story, highlighting miscarriage of justice.

familiar stranger
familiar stranger

Super Reviewer


Well made, dramatic case study of the crime, trial and subsequent execution of Derek Bentley. Director Peter Medak and a very talented cast have put together a powerful argument against capital punishment and a scathing indictment of Britain's jurisprudence.

Randy Tippy
Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer


Intelligent drama in which a mentally challenged petty criminal is railroaded onto the gallows, causing the establishment to re-evaluate it's use of the death penalty. Well acted and thought provoking.

xGary Xx
xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

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