If you are looking for a VHS or R0 DVD copy of the film contact
It's not who you know...it's who you kill.
Cast | Articles | Classic Lines | Comparing to Clockwork | Dates | DVD | Formats | Interviews | Malcolm's Introduction | Mini Reviews | Notes | Pictures | Official Synopsis| Q&A with Malcolm and Paul | Quotes | Soundtrack | Stories | Summary from Video Box | Trailers | My Summary | My Review | Taglines
|Gangster No.1 age 55||Malcolm McDowell|
|Young Gangster No. 1||Paul Bettany|
|Freddie Mays||David Thewlis|
|Lennie Taylor||Jamie Foreman|
|Mad John||Doug Allen|
|Eddie Miller||Eddie Marsan|
|Fat Charlie||David Kennedy|
|Maxie King||Andrew Lincoln|
|Slow Billy||Calvin Clerkin|
|Guy in Tailors||Alex McSweeney|
|Dodgy Geezer||Binky Baker|
|Rough Diamond||Martyn Read|
|Toilet Attendant||Arthur Nightingale|
|Jack the Lad||Jack Pierce|
|Julie||Emma Griffiths Malin|
|Giggler Bennett||Gary McCormack|
|Bent Cop||Sean Chapman|
|Fat Charlie's Girl||Georgina Bull|
|Roland's Girl #1||Jo-Anne Nighy|
|Roland's Girl #2||Simone Bowkett|
|Thug Car #1||Mark Montgomerie|
|Freddie's Attacker||Simon Marc|
|Club Manager||Tony Denham|
|Attacker's Friend||Lorraine Stanley|
|Youth 1||Wayne Matthews|
|Youth 2||Tony Bowers|
|Youth 3||Danny Webster|
|Gambler||Ian Boo Khoo|
Directed by Paul McGuigan
Written by Johnny Ferguson
By John Dingwall | Daily Record 1/29/09
Scots film-maker Paul McGuigan told Bruce Willis where to go when the Die Hard star rang and said he wanted to watch the movie Gangster No.1 with him. The Glaswegian was convinced the call was a prank, but Willis really did want to see the film he had directed. Paul was eventually persuaded to tag along and the night led to him becoming pals with the action star and eventually directing him in the blockbuster Lucky Number Slevin. That catapulted the Scot on to the A-list and he has since become one of the most sought after Hollywood directors. Paul explained: "Gangster No.1 was an important film for me because it brought me to America. I was surprised at the success of that movie and amazed when I got a call from Bruce Willis when I first arrived in LA. I had never met him. I didn't even know he'd seen the film. He called and said, 'I'm screening the film at my house, can you come?' And I was like, 'Sorry. Who are you?' He said: 'Bruce Willis.' And I told him to f**k off. Literally. And he laughed and told me he'd seen it three times already and his mates were coming over to see it. That's how I ended up working with him on Lucky Number Slevin, so it worked out well. Gangster opened up a lot of opportunities for me in Los Angeles."
7/14/02 Comingsoon.net at LA Premiere
McDowell Makes A Second Clockwork Orange - Wenn 6/00
British star McDowell has made an ultra-violent gangster film which will kick up greater public outcry than A Clockwork Orange. The veteran actor says upcoming Gangster No. 1 (2000) is so violent it makes the controversial 1971 movie look like a children's movie. McDowell says, "Talk about violence - A Clockwork Orange is like a Disney film next to Gangster No. 1, it's going to cause quite a stir... It's a very profane and very violent film about the rise and fall of a psychotic but charismatic gangster from the East End of London. It's on the scale of a Greek tragedy... It's an extraordinary piece of work like Trainspotting or Pulp Fiction. People will be stunned but whether they actually like it is another matter." And McDowell says the film has received the ultimate rave review - from his 16-year-old son, Charlie. McDowell adds, "Charlie's a surfer in Los Angeles and he's never really watched anything of mine, but he jumped up at the end of the screening and said, `Dad, that film rocks'... I was given a seal of approval that means more to me that any critic's words - the most glowing review would mean nothing compared to that one line from my son."
Tuesday June 29, 1999
"We threw someone off a tower block in Elephant and Castle last week", Gangster No 1 director Paul McGuigan (Acid House director) gleefully informed Hush Hush. It's a stroke of luck the body didn't fall straight into another gangland film set, seeing as there are currently seven other examples of the genre shooting in and around London, namely Essex Boys, Diamonds (the Lock Stock follow-up), Love, Honor and Obey, Sexy Beast, Honest (Dave Stewart's film debut starring the All Saints sisters) and adaptations of Lenny McLean and Roy Shaw's hard-nut memoirs.
Nobody seems quite sure why there should be such a surfeit of the flicks doing the rounds, although Lock Stock's much-bandied name was suggested as the culprit on more than one occasion (usually accompanied by a disdainful curl of the lip - Gangster No 1's a real gangster film you know). The film's claim to criminal credibility stems from the fact that a play, rather than a pop promo, formed the inspiration for the screenplay. "It's poetry", attested 'No 1' lead, Paul Bettany. "Even the swearing's got rhythm."
Set in late 60's Soho - and starring an eye-catching wardrobe of super-sharp and shiny suits - the action focuses on the volatile relationship between a fledgling gangster (Bettany) and his leader-of-the-pack mentor (David Thewlis).
For those who would doubt the film's stab at authenticity, Nil By Mouth's Jamie Forman apparently brought his ex-gangster pa on set for a taste of the good ol' days. And for added screen-cred, Malcolm McDowell makes an appearance. "He's deeply rude" Bettany admiringly describes the Kubrick legend.
McDowell arrived unexpectedly on the Kings Cross pub set the day Hush Hush visited. Despite the fact that the towering talents of David Thewlis and cinematographer Peter Sova (Good Morning Vietnam and Donnie Brasco) were present, all attention gravitated in the meister's direction. "Look at these tired old fucking faces", he graciously greeted his colleagues.
McDowell came just in time for lunch, but missed the filming of two tense scenes between David Thewlis's gangster numero uno and Jamie Forman's rival sarf-London crim. Action was briefly interrupted when Thewlis began choking on the combined fumes of the wafting smoke machine and the burning cigarette Forman was brandishing in his face. The price one has to pay for atmosphere...
"This film pulls the rug on cool gangsterism", Bettany insisted. That's certainly what crossed Hush Hush's mind when Forman's tough-guy began crooning Pennies From Heaven... and wouldn't stop. "Er, Jamie", McGuigan delicately interrupted, "this should only last for 12 seconds". You can't keep a good karaoke crook down.
"Do me a favor."
"What do you take me for? A cunt?"
"That's my favorite axe."
"Look in my eyes, look in my fucking eyes."
"I'm superman. King fucking Kong."
"You want a war?!"
"I'm number 1, I'm number 1..1...1 !!!"
16 similarities between GN1 and ACO:
Both star Malcolm McDowell (of course!)
Both have film length narration by the main character.
Both feature a language all their own.
Both are violent British films.
GN1 is set at the end of the 60s, ACO was filmed in 1970.
Both feature crimes committed while wearing masks. In GN1 this takes pace in 1972. 1972 is when ACO was widely released.
ACO has 4 guys beating a man with canes, GN1 has 4 guys beating a man with golf clubs.
Both feature a guy getting a glass broken on his face unexpectedly by his fellow gang member.
Both have a main character that is a violent anti-hero that you like.
Both main characters have psychotic stares.
Both feature gang members who wear matching suits.
Both have gang members that frequent a regular bar.
Both feature death scenes from the view of the victim.
Both feature a gang leader who is sent to prison.
Both focus on the main character and do not reveal much about the other gang members except for one scene late in the movie.
Both feature a strong yet stupid gang member.
Both gangs consist of 4 guys.
Premiere - UK 6/9/00
Canada Summer 2001
1st US showing 6/22/01
DVD R2 9/01
DVD R1 - Canada - 1/15/02
NYC Premiere 5/23/02
Official US Premiere 6/14/02
DVD US 10/02
Widescreen (16 x 9 enhanced)
Dolby Digital 5.1
Audio Description for the visually impaired
Interviews with Cast and Crew
Theatrical trailer / TV Spot / Teaser Trailer
Isolated Music Score
Behind the Scenes Footage
VHS - NTSC + PAL / DVD R1 + R2
1999 - Virtuetv.com on
8/99 - Associated News w/Malcolm
2000 - Maxim w/Malcolm
6/8/00 - Independent w/Malcolm
6/21/01 The Eye w/Director Paul McGuigan
11/01 David Grieco w/Malcolm
6/02 ugo.com with Malcolm
6/17/02 indieWIRE with Paul McGuigan
7/10/02 IGN FilmForce with Malcolm
8/21/02 Bluntreview.com with Malcolm
Thanks to all the strange and wacky fans who
get on the Internet late at night. I don't know anything about it because I
can't work the computer myself, my wife tells me all these things. Thank god I
can finally introduce a film where I actually look like me! Because I only made
this a couple of years ago. I still somewhat look like this instead of
introducing things like if.... which was 35 years ago when you think 'who the
hell is that with the stupid haircut'. I am very proud of this film. I am a
working actor so I work a lot when I can which means of course you do a lot of
crap. So occasionally you get something that you are proud of and I'm
really proud of this one, hence it is in the retrospective. So when I read the
script I immediately sort of went 'wow!' and I'll tell you I don't think there
is one ad lib in the film. It is all scripted by these writers who wrote the
play Gangster No. 1. The producer Norma Heyman sat there in the dark at the
Almeida Theater watching this play - basically monologues of a gangster looking
back on his life and she had the foresight and the good fortune to realize that
there was possibly a film in this. So here we are tonight.
I bookend this film. I sort of do the play because the great big monologues are now in the voice over which is sort of the conscious of the film and the thoughts of the leading character. Gangster No. 1 is played as a young man by a brilliant young actor called Paul Bettany. He's a good lad and thank god we didn't do a scene together because of course we are playing the same person. As you will see when we do the Q&A he is at least six inches taller than me and he had the nerve to wear lifts tonight! I must say publicly, I've said to him privately, he gives a wonderful performance, helped by my voice over somewhat. He only has four lines in the film, but he says them very well!
Paul McGuigan is a young Scottish director, British director, I say Scottish because I couldn't understand a word he said. We had to get translations from the script supervisor who was also a Scott, but from Edinburgh so it was a lot easier to understand her sort of posh Scott. Paul is a great talent, a wonderful director. He did a brilliant job with this and it's a pity he's not here tonight. I suppose he's working isn't he? He never invited me back to do another film. Here it is...Gangster No. 1 it's very violent and very profane be prepared for me. There's a lot of F'ing and the "C" word as we were saying today, do not be offended by the English saying the word cunt, OK? Because in England you go "Oh, what a cunt.' Which means 'what a nice guy'. So, let me get the word out now so nobody gets offended when the film starts. There's lots of 'fucking cunts. You fucking cunt.' So get this. The first person Paul brought in was this very nice, lovely, middle-aged very straight laced Scottish continuity lady called Ditty Bart. So just to tease her in the middle of one of my rants going 'You fucking cunt, I'm going to fucking kick your fucking head in. You fuck....line?' (Does Scottish woman's voice) 'You know perfectly well Malcolm what the line is!' 'Give me the fucking line!' (woman's voice) 'You know bloody...oh all right 'You fucking cunt.' Thank you. Enjoy!
"Compelling, intense and savage - unmissable" -
"Compelling, intense and brilliant. Unmissable. " - Esquire
"Superb" - Baz Bamigboye
"Get Carter for the new millennium" - Hotdog Magazine
"Terrifying and compelling, shockingly good, the ultimate British crime drama." - London Times
"Sharp suits, sharp wit, sharp blades, funny, stylish, bloody great" 5 stars - Maxim
"Style, substance and blood-red hot action" - Maxim
"Startlingly violent" - Scottish Sunday Times
"Diamond-edged performances" - Total Film
It was originally a play with just the gangster talking about his life.
The teaser trailer premiered before ACO's return to the theater in the UK.
Clerkenwell, The Barbican are the apartments in the film.
DVD Front Cover - US
DVD Front Cover - R1 Canada
DVD Back Cover - R1 Canada
VHS Front Cover - NTSC
VHS Back Cover - NTSC
Poster - UK Rental
T-shirt - Poster Image
Gangster Number 1 US Poster
Film TV picture of Malcolm 3/01
Malcolm leaning against a wall
Malcolm and Paul Bettany at NYC premier 5/23/02
Paul was laughing because Malcolm was busting on a photographer who asked them to turn to the left again.
Life couldn't be sweeter - until Gangster learns that
Freddie Mays, his old boss and mentor, his old rival and tormentor, is coming
out of prison after doing 30 years for murder. Flash back, to London 1968. From
Gangster's point of view, we watch this epic story unfold. At this time, Freddie
Mays is King and he enjoys all the trappings that being royalty brings. He's
known as 'the Butcher of Mayfair', because he killed a bent cop and got away
All Freddie's men - that's Tommy, Mad John, Fat Charlie, Roland, Billy, Eddie - look up to the boss. So does Gangster, the new boy on the scene. When Freddie sees that Gangster can handle himself well, he puts him on the payroll and then he makes him his right-hand man. Which couldn't be better for Gangster, who admires Freddie and everything he possesses. There's so much of it to admire. Like Freddie's flat, fitted out as expensive as hell. The Italian leather chairs, the onyx and gold everywhere. There's even a wall mural featuring horses, one of Freddie's greatest loves.
In service to Freddie, Gangster will wreak revenge, torture and even kill. When the boss's nightclub is petrol-bombed 'accidentally' by a rival firm led by Lennie Taylor, Gangster takes care of the careless person who made all that mess. Then Gangster and Roland uncover a plot by Lennie Taylor's men to kill Freddie Mays. Roland wants to inform the boss but Gangster now wants to keep the news a secret. So he must dispose of Roland. It's a special technique that Gangster will use again and again later, when disposing of Lennie Taylor and his top man, Maxie King.
Someone must pay for the disposal by doing time, and the person sent down is Freddie Mays. But before he goes to prison, a blood-curdling battle of wills takes place between him and his ambitious young apprentice. A battle that reveals a chilling portrait of cunning, deceit, obsession and violence.
At the US premiere of the film in New York 5/23/02
"Gangster movies are attractive to people who write, who are writers. Look at The Sopranos. Tony Soprano has become this Shakespearean character. The guys in New York, they've started to mimic him. Talk like him, dress like him. And it goes back to George Raft, Cagney. These characters are so much bigger than life (that) these writers, they like to write about them. These characters, they could kill you, they could kiss you, they could be violent, all in the space of walking you to the door. I think working-class people like the aspiration element of these men: the clothes, the lifestyle. How these men comport themselves. Killing people. Paul McGuigan 4/5/06
"He is a monstrous person. His feelings towards Freddie Mays are obsession, envy, love, hate — all these and more. He is psychotic but I wouldn't know how to play psychotic. He's fascinating to me and I've relished playing him. I've never met anyone remotely like Gangster — and I never want to." - Malcolm McDowell
"Without those (curse) words, the movie would have no soul and would be very short. I watched Malcolm do his stuff, and then I robbed his entire performance. I did 'Gangster No. 1' for the paycheck, frankly. I didn't have any work back then." - Paul Bettany 7/26/02 SF Chronicle
1. Neil Hannon - The Good Life
2. The Small Faces - Lazy Sunday
3. Edmundo Ross - Va Ba Ba Boom
4. Saffron Burrows - Mercy Mercy Mercy
5. Albertos y Los Trios Paranoias - Kill
6. Lo - Utopia
7. The Quik - Bert's Apple Crumble
8. Engelbert Humperdinck - Ten Guitars
9. Anthony Newley - Why
10. Homer Banks, Bettye Crutcher, Don Davis, and Raymond Jackson - Who's Making Love
11. The Sweet - Blockbuster
"I saw the film at the American Film Market, a buying/selling market held in L.A. annually. Malcolm sat behind me and I tried very hard to hear what he said to his young lady companion. I can't recall anything Malcolm said specifically, he basically just pointed out the things he really enjoyed almost always involving people other than himself. IFC seems to have moved their release date for Gangster down to June, N.Y. and L.A. only. It's a very crowded market in big cities." - Jim
"We interviewed Malcolm McDowell for a local radio movie show we do here in San Jose called Celluloid Dreams. It was in connection with a film shown at the Mill Valley Film Festival called Gangster No. 1 (11/9/01). We were asked to hold it, however until the film was released. As of today, it hasn't been edited for broadcast or broadcast, and we are still waiting for the film to be released. He was nice, witty, charming, intelligent...an interviewers dream." - Rick
A compelling portrait of a psychologically twisted hoodlum
In this thriller set in 1970's London's Soho, an ambitious and charismatic East End gangster systematically plans the downfall of his boss, eventually replacing him as the feared and respected No. 1...but there is, of course, a price to pay. Goodfellas meets Scarface in this stylishly vicious East End saga with a stunning debut from Paul Bettany.
The film opens at a boxing match in a private
club. Wine, women and fine cigars flow freely. The old gangsters sit around
shooting the shit. One guy tries to remember something and goes on and on while
the rest goof on him. When one of them mentions Freddie Mays is
getting out of jail after 30 years this disturbs Gangster No. 1 who is now 55
years old. He gets up and goes to the bathroom. He puts his glass down on the
floor and takes a piss. Some of it splashes on the glass and we wonder if he's
going to notice. After heavily tipping the old man who works the bathroom he goes to
drink from the glass, sniffs it, stops and says, "What do you take me for? a
cunt?" Then the film switches to the beginning of the story.
It is 1968 the gangster is not the No.1, he is just a young hoodlum. Freddie Mays "The Butcher of Mayfair" has heard he did well on a previous job and wants to see him. This is a big deal. He is invited up to his flat and one of his boys, Jerry, laughs at him. Freddie then smashes his head open, gives the young gangster 500 pounds and tells him there is now an opening for him after he "takes out the trash".
He joins right up because he totally idolizes Freddy - he has all the best life can offer. The best suits, shirts, ties, shoes, cufflinks, watches and taste - total class. That is exactly what he wants. The nameless gangster quickly becomes Freddie's right hand man. He goes out and gets cleaned up and dressed up like a made man.
Gangster ad the boys chases one guy who owes Freddie money and dangles him over a high balcony and drop him off camera. Then they visit a taxi driver who owes Freddie money and they smash all the windows of his cab and give him a day to pay. When the driver comes after Freddie with a knife, they smash him into the grill and drop the taxi down on him that he was repairing.
The boys are all celebrating including Eddie and Johnny, Freddie's long time mate Tony, as well as some birds (girls). The party is in full swing when a call comes in that their club is on fire. The boys get down to the club and watch and burn as some of the burned girls come out and tell what happen. Two guys sat at table six and when they left the place went up. Gangster notices a car down the block and strides over to it like John Wayne. The car drives off and takes a shot at him and misses. It turns out the taxi driver was one of Lennie Taylor's men. He is a rival crime boss and ordered his men to burn down Freddie's club. Soon after gangster, Mad John, Roland and Slow Billy track down the shooter/fire bomber and beat him with golf clubs on a miniature golf course. The scene is reminiscent of the tunnel scene in Clockwork Orange.
Freddie isn't happy about this and he and gangster must go off to Lennie's club to talk to him about the war that is brewing. Lennie says that two off his men were hurt, Freddie's club burned - sounds even, accidents happen. Gangster squares off with Maxie who is Lennie's right hand man while Freddie and Lennie square off. Nothing happens, but we can see there is no love lost between anyone in the room. Lennie wants to fight, wants a war, but backs down.
They leave and Freddie suggests they get a proper drink and go to an upscale gentleman's club where Freddie is well known. On the way there gangster eyes Freddie's outfit longingly. Great taste - always a white shirt, 24K wafer thin gold watch, the works. Freddie catches him and gives him his monogrammed tie pin which gangster quickly applies to his tie and keeps it forever.
One of the new dancers at the club, Karen, is late and one of the other girls has to cover for her. This works in her favor when the boss tells her and another girl to go keep Freddie and his goon company. The old girl is happy because she has a thing for Freddie, but Karen really doesn't want a part of it. The boss tells him just to keep them company, not to have sex with him...unless she wants to.
The boys order food and Freddie goes to the bathroom. Karen sits down and thinks gangster is Freddie because of the tie pin. Gangster is instantly attracted to her, but doesn't have the charm to win Karen over. In fact she despises him. When Freddie gets back, things change. He sends gangster off to dance with the other girl while he charms Karen. She lights his cigar, and he offers her one. She tells him she can't smoke because of her voice. Gangster is not happy to lose the girl to Freddie and he can't take his eyes off of her while he harshly holds the other girl. After the dance Freddie convinces Karen to sing on the stage and she sings a song for Freddie. Gangster is surprised Freddie he taken to the girl so fast. She dedicates the song to Freddie and Gangster tries to goof on him about it.
Now everything changes. Freddie and Karen are an item and he confides in her more than he does gangster. The next day Roland and gangster see Eddie leaving the Double Six club with Lennie Taylor. Something big is going down. They follow Eddie to his apartment and gangster hits him and threatens torture with his favorite ax if he doesn't explain what he was doing with Lennie. Eddie passes out and Gangster smacks him awake and sits him back up. Eventually he confesses that Lennie has ordered a hit on Freddie next Friday. Eddie says "love has made him fat." Gangster can't believe his luck! With Freddie out of the way he'll be the new No. 1. They leave and Roland is anxious to tell Freddie what they just found out. Gangster fakes a flat tire and when they get out he chops Roland's head off and ditches him.
He gets back and plays it cool. Roland is now gone for five days and Mad John wants blood. Freddie wants none of it. Gangster comes to see Freddie, but he is busy comforting Roland's sister. Soon after Gangster tries to charm Karen again, but she tells him she can get him a girl, he's not bad looking. He tells her he has birds coming out of his ears and he is a prince. He sees a big horse fresco getting build on the wall. She tells him that it is an engagement present for Freddie. He is upset because Freddie hasn't told him. He insults her and the present and she in turn spits in his face, shocking him.
When Friday comes there is nothing to stop Lennie. Gangster goes to the designated spot so he can watch. Lennie's boys shoot and beat Freddie as he pleads for Karen, then cut Karen's throat in front of him. They shoot Freddie two more times then leave both for dead. Gangster gleefully watches this from a nearby car. Now it is time for him to finish business.
He grabs his tools - gun, chopper and axe and heads off to Lennie's apartment. He kicks the door in, shoots Lennie in the knee, turns the music up and slowly, methodically removes his clothes. With all his tools lined up he goes to work. The view is from Lennies' POV and we only see and hear Gangster attacking him and we can only imagine the brutality if he used the knife, hammer, axe, chisel and corkscrew on him. After the deed is done is he shown smoking in his underwear covered with blood.
He washes up at his place and Johnny comes and gets him, telling him Freddie has been jumped, but is still alive, but in bad shape. They go to the hospital to see him, but can not because the police think it was a payback hit. Freddie killed Lennie and Lennie's boys went to do Freddie in. The judge sentences Freddie to 30 years.
Now Gangster takes over as Gangster No. 1. In 1970 he finishes off Maxie and puts and end to Lennie's organization. In 1972 he pulls a major robbery and scores millions. In 1973 he opens a casino and rakes in $2 million the first year. In 1975 he buys a horse and wins at the track. By 1980 he has 300 men working under him. From 1982-6 he rakes in big bucks in cocaine. In 1990 he chases a naked Billy down with his car - cleaning house. In 1993 Mad John kills his wife in the super market - the last of Freddie's boys is gone, the end of an era. Now in 1999, Freddie Mays is coming home.
Gangster doesn't known what to expect. Why didn't anyone tell him? Is Freddie gunning for him? He goes to see the one last person who knows. The only one left alive - Eddie. Eddie is in really bad shape and tells him that Freddie is going to be married soon. To who? Karen of course. Gangster is shocked to learn she is still alive after all this time AND still in love with Freddie.
Freddie is getting out Wednesday and Gangster wants to see him. Gangster goes off and finds Karen signing karaoke in some dive. She is not happy to see him. He tells her to send Freddie to see him or there will be hell to pay.
Gangster has a full talk with Freddie, then the camera pulls back and we see Freddie isn't there. Gangster falls asleep and Freddie comes in later - at last they meet again. Freddie is old and tired and not impressed with the gangster or his lifestyle. In fact gangster offers him money, his house, his clothes, his shoes, his life - everything. Freddie isn't taking. Gangster got all the money and power he wanted, but he never got the style and more importantly - he never got the girl. Even after 30 years, Freddie may not have the money and power, but he does have the girl. Gangster admits he saw them attacked and did nothing AND that he killed Lennie. He gives Freddie a gun and tells him to shoot him, hoping to bring Freddie back down to his level. He turns his back on him, ordering him to shoot. Freddie seems like he will indeed shoot him, but puts the gun down and leaves. That Freddie was a loser and is dead. He tells him, "I'm just an old man, with a cheap coast and that's the way I like it." And he leaves.
Gangster is in a rage, he smashes a glass window, cuts himself, sits down and smokes like he says Freddie do all those years ago. He strips down to his underwear and starts to burn his money while standing on the balcony. He can buy and sell Freddie, but he can't find that love he wanted. He ends by scream, "I'm No. 1 !! I'm No. 1 !!" And most likely falls to his death. The End.
This is one amazing film! I had been looking
forward to seeing it for over a year and was greatly disappointed that there was
no US theatrical release. Even worse no VHS or DVD release in the US. I was able
to get a foreign VHS release and was set. This will
change in 2002 as it was picked up by Ifc and will finally premiere in the US.
It is so great to see Malcolm back in a real powerhouse role especially in the UK. Even though My Life So Far was Malcolm's return to filming in the UK it wasn't a major role for him. Though he is only seen at the bookends of the film he narrates throughout, so he is always present. We don't even know when the narration comes so it is always a pleasant surprise to get to hear him again. It is also very funny to hear him call people cunts as that is a word you rarely ever hear in the US. He has lots of great lines even during the narration and when he is screaming "I'm number 1!!!" at the end it is classic Malcolm and in fact unforgettable cinema. If you think about it, Paul has few lines as Malcolm speaks most of them in the narration.
I would hope the movie fans in the UK would be blown away because in the same year they finally got to see ACO in the theaters they get GN1 as well. If anyone needed any proof that Malcolm could still tackle a big powerful anti-hero role, this is it. For a young fan to be introduced to Malcolm in two of his all-time greatest roles in such a short time would have me hope there a huge batch of new Malcolm fans in the UK, but I fear this isn't this case.
The middle of the film is really a showcase of rising star Paul Bettany in his major film debut. He does a great job playing the young Gangster, though he isn't the spitting image of Malcolm when he he young, this isn't important. His is taller and leaning, but their eyes match. He does the old ultra-violence well. "Look into my eyes. Look into my fucking eyes." He tells poor Eddie this and we expect him to knock the shit out of him, but he doesn't and that attests to the power he has over him.
David Thewlis, whom I hadn't seen before, does well as the crime boss, though no information is provided as to how he rose to that level except for the bent cop story. Maybe a prequel? Overall all the characters gave strong performances.
Great acting, great story, great visuals as well. They are some interesting film styles attempted. An early stairwell chase starts from 1 angle, then 2, then 3 and 4 - all at once across the screen. Some of the violence is toned down like when Maxie gets it the picture is like broken glass. Maybe that was so they didn't get an X rating, but it is still pretty cool.
Though it is set in the late 60s it isn't a period piece, it is a character piece. It is about the people and an important device to have Malcolm in the film since he can't be playing 25 year old characters any more. One interesting thing is that when Malcolm takes over the Gangster pad he doesn't change anything even after 30 years. When Freddie finally returns he says "I love what you did with the place." He mocks him for it. I wonder if Gangster's motivation was to emulate Freddie or he just didn't know or care to change it?
The final showdown between gangster and Freddie is very interesting. You might expect explosive violence, but these guys are old now. "That Freddie is dead", he tells him. The new Freddie is a changed man, he doesn't give a shit about the gangster or his lifestyle. Gangster tries everything he knows to get Freddie to crack. What does he really hope to accomplish? If Freddie shoots him in the back, will Karen leave him? His motivations aren't given, but it makes an interesting twist as we wonder if Freddie will shoot him or will gangster shoot Freddie? I think the director wanted to surprise us and he succeeded.
If I have any complaint it is the the film is too short, clocking in at a little over an hour and a half. I mean when Malcolm talks about what he did in 1972-99 it takes around 5 minutes. More flashbacks would have been great and I hope there is more footage from these years. Maybe it'll be put on the US DVD as there is 2 cut scenes on the Region 1+2 DVD. One is more of Malcolm's monologue to the empty chair pretending Freddie is there and Paul's battery torture scene on Maxie.
UK - It's not who you know...it's who you kill.
US - There Can Be Only ONE.
Pictures and official synopsis copyright Film Four 2000.
Everything else and this format © 2001-09 Alex D. Thrawn for www.MalcolmMcDowell.net