Gangster No. 1

Gangster No. 1

name = Gangster No. 1

caption = Theatrical release poster
imdb_id = 0210065
writer = Johnny Ferguson
starring = Malcolm McDowell,
Paul Bettany,
David Thewlis
director = Paul McGuigan
producer = Norma Heyman
cinematography = Adrian Biddle
distributor = FilmFour
released = June 9, 2000
runtime = 103 min.
country = UK
language = English
budget =

"Gangster No. 1" is a British gangster movie released in 2000. It stars Malcolm McDowell, David Thewlis and Paul Bettany and was directed by Paul McGuigan.

The film chronicles the life of an unnamed gangster from his beginnings as a psychopathic thug in the 1960s to his rise to power by the end of the 1990s. It explores the Gangster's warped and ambiguous relationship with his mentor and idol, Freddie Mays (Thewlis).

The film was not very well received by critics. The film is roughly split into two parts; the 1960s and the 1990s and many critics thought that it was confusing given that, although the main character was portrayed by different actors in the different time-periods, the other main characters were not, with just a touch of make-up to make them look older in the second-half. The difference in height between the two main actors was singled out for criticism - Bettany is 6'3" while McDowell is 5'8", yet they were playing the same character at different ages.

"Gangster No. 1" also followed a recent flood of British Gangster movies, such as "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" and "Snatch", and given the praise issued to the two aforementioned movies, further gangster films had a lot to live up to.

The film was nonetheless praised for the performances of its actors, although a lot of the attention it received was due to its extremely violent content, in particular a scene whereby the viewer is shown the point-of-view of a victim enduring terrible torture and their subsequently brutal murder. The film also attained the notorious record for the number of times the profanity 'cunt' has been used in a mainstream British release.


The film opens with the flamboyant Gangster in his middle-age, portrayed by Malcolm McDowell, surrounded by his friends and attending a boxing match. Upon hearing the name of Freddie Mays in the conversation, he becomes upset and leaves without a word. He then enters a toilet and sets his glass of champagne on the floor near the urinal. As he urinates, some of his urine splashes into the glass. He picks it up and stops just as he's about to drink from it, looks to the camera and says, "What do you take me for, a cunt?" (see meta-reference)

The film then flashes back to the 1960s, with a younger Gangster (played by Paul Bettany). He comes to the attention of a very influential London gangster, Freddie Mays (played by David Thewlis), who recruits him to be an enforcer for his gang. The Gangster is eager to please, and proves his loyalty to Mays by enthusiastically dropping a car onto a mechanic's head after he attempts to stab Mays.

The Gangster quickly becomes obsessed with Mays' glamorous lifestyle and success, ogling his expensive suits, his watch, and in particular his tie-pin. The Gangster's obsession becomes more intense, to the point of wanting to be Freddie Mays, even picturing himself sitting in Mays' place.

The Gangster soon discovers that Mays' main rival, Lenny Taylor (Jamie Foreman), is planning on killing Mays. Instead of warning his boss, the Gangster decides to let the attack take place, even killing a member of his own gang who was set on going straight to Mays. The attack goes on as planned, and the Gangster sits in a car nearby to watch as Mays is gunned down and his fiance Karen's neck is cut.

That same night, the Gangster brutally murders Lenny in an extended torture/murder scene. The Gangster shoots Lenny in the leg then calmly turns up the Hi-Fi to drown the resulting screams. After stripping to his underwear, presumably to avoid staining his suit with blood, the Gangster brutally attacks Lenny with a wine bottle, an axe, an ice pick, a machete and a fruit bowl, all amdist a constant stream of kicks and verbal abuse. He finally kills Taylor by ramming his head through a pane of glass, then smokes a cigarette whilst continuing to curse at Lenny's corpse. Most of the scene is shown from Lenny's point-of-view, with images and sounds fading in and out and growing more dim as the victim moves in and out of consciousness and slowly dies.

To the Gangster's surprise, Freddie Mays and Karen were not killed in the attack Lenny organised earlier that evening. However, Mays is unjustly convicted of the murder of Lenny and given a 25 year prison sentence.

With Mays locked up and out of the way, the Gangster consolidates his power over the city's underworld. In the intervening years, he organizes the Brinks Heist, runs a casino, fixes horse races, and builds his gang to 300 men strong while during this period, many of the original men from Mays' crew begin to fall by the wayside as some are killed, some retire and one in particular, ends up in jail for murdering his wife in a supermarket. At this point, about two-thirds of the way through, counting down from 1969-1999, we return to 1999 and the Gangster is once more portrayed by Malcolm McDowell.

Freddie Mays finally comes out of prison a changed man and an educated one, holding a bachelor of arts degree. The Gangster is ready for a battle, but Mays seemingly has no fight left in him. Mays wants only to marry Karen, who has waited thirty years for him, and live in peace. He tells the Gangster that he is welcome to the London underworld and will not stand in his way. The Gangster becomes irate that Mays is seemingly happier with nothing than the Gangster is with everything, and threatens Mays with a gun. He then gives Mays the gun and begs him to kill him, but Mays merely smirks and leaves saying "Who'd wanna be Freddie Mays?".

In the face of his rival's sneering indifference, the Gangster loses his mind and ends the film standing on top of a tall block of flats in his underwear, throwing money in the air and laughing maniacally before committing suicide by leaping off the building. His last words are "I'm number one."

Real Life References

* Freddy Mays is based on real-life notorious mobster Frankie Fraser.
* Malcolm McDowell, the actor who plays Gangster No.1 has a striking resemblance to Glasgow gangster Arthur Thompson.
* Jamie Foreman is the son of real-life gangster Freddie Foreman.

External links

* [ Official Site]
*imdb title|id=0210065|title=Gangster No. 1

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Gangster — Gangster …   Deutsch Wörterbuch

  • gangster — [ gɑ̃gstɛr ] n. m. • v. 1925; mot angl. amér., de gang ♦ Membre d un gang. ⇒ bandit. Les gangsters de Chicago dans les années trente. Film de gangsters. Par ext. Malfaiteur. « dans notre roman noir, le gangster héroïque a succédé au policier… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • gangster — GÁNGSTER, gangsteri, s.m. Membru al unei bande de răufăcători; p. gener. bandit, răufăcător. – Din fr., engl. gangster. Trimis de gall, 13.09.2007. Sursa: DEX 98  gángster s. m. (sil. mf. gang ), pl. gángsteri Trimis de siveco, 10.08.2004. Sursa …   Dicționar Român

  • Gangster — Sm Verbrecher std. stil. (20. Jh.) Entlehnung. Entlehnt aus ne. gangster, einer Ableitung von ne. gang Verbrecherbande .    Ebenso nndl. gangster, nfrz. gangster, nschw. gangster, nisl. gangster; Gang2. ✎ Rey Debove/Gagnon (1988), 336f. englisch… …   Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen sprache

  • Gangster No. 1 — est un film britannique sorti en 2000. Sommaire 1 Histoire 2 Sur le film 3 Fiche technique 4 Acteur …   Wikipédia en Français

  • gangster — gang·ster n: a member of a gang of criminals Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of Law. Merriam Webster. 1996. gangster …   Law dictionary

  • gangster — / gæŋstə/, it. / gangster/ o / gɛngster/ s. ingl. [der. di gang ], usato in ital. al masch. (non com. al femm.). [individuo dedito al crimine, spec. legato a una banda] ▶◀ bandito, criminale, fuorilegge, malfattore, malvivente, manigoldo.… …   Enciclopedia Italiana

  • gangster — s. m. Ver gângster.   ‣ Etimologia: palavra inglesa …   Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa

  • gângster — s. m. Membro de uma associação de malfeitores; bandido.   ‣ Etimologia: inglês gangster …   Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa

  • gángster — (plural gángsteres o gángsters; gángsteres o gángsters; del inglés; pronunciamos gánster ) sustantivo masculino 1. Miembro de una banda organizada de malhechores: Fuimos a ver una película de gángsters. 2 …   Diccionario Salamanca de la Lengua Española

  • gàngster — m 1. {{001f}}pripadnik mafije (1b) 2. {{001f}}onaj koji kriminalne radnje i pljačke organizirano izvodi izravnim nasiljem i upotrebom vatrenog oružja; razbojnik 3. {{001f}}razg. onaj koji je beskarakteran, amoralan; nitkov, varalica ✧… …   Veliki rječnik hrvatskoga jezika

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.