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Gangster No. 1

3.8 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

"Fascinating" (The Hollywood Reporter) and "sensational" (Los Angeles Times), this bold, innovative thriller chronicles the bloody, single-minded climb of a barbarous crime lord to power. Starring Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange), Paul Bettany (A Beautiful Mind), David Thewlis (Naked) and Saffron Burrows (Deep Blue Sea), Gangster No. 1 enters the psyche of an unrepentant mobster and reveals the madman within. Bettany gives "a brilliantly eerie, star-making performance" (American Film Institute) as a ruthless mobster who slugs, claws and kills his way to the top. But when he learns that the former mentor (Thewlis) he put in prison is about to get out, this self-made monster must not only face a man whose life he ruined but the twisted remnants of his own demented conscience as well.


This glinting, scalding gangland phantasmagoria offers a sort of funhouse-mirror refraction of the life and career of a British hooligan so elemental in his right villainy that he's merely identified as "Gangster." The action begins in 1999, with Malcolm McDowell brutishly savoring his eminence as a crime lord; but more of the film is taken up with an extended flashback to 1968, when his youthful self--played by Paul Bettany (but voiced by McDowell during private reveries)--got his start. Bettany's patron is Freddie Mays, "the Butcher of Mayfair" (David Thewlis), a comparatively suave rotter whom "Young Gangster" more or less simultaneously worships, emulates, and craves to see destroyed. Director Paul McGuigan layers the eras and personalities in a kaleidoscope of jagged stylization (occasionally the image shatters like glass, then hellishly reconstitutes itself). The effect is less to tell a proper story than to suspend us in a state of mind--and a homage to McDowell's landmark role in A Clockwork Orange. But it does exert an unclean fascination. --Richard T. Jameson

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Malcolm McDowell, David Thewlis, Paul Bettany, Saffron Burrows, Kenneth Cranham
  • Directors: Paul McGuigan
  • Writers: David Scinto, Johnny Ferguson, Louis Mellis
  • Producers: Jonathan Cavendish, Karsten Brünig, Nicky Kentish Barnes, Norma Heyman
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
  • DVD Release Date: October 8, 2002
  • Run Time: 103 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00006IUJP
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,961 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Gangster No. 1" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

The first time I heard of "Gangster No. 1" was in the Globe And Mail. The one thing that intrigued me to find it upon it's DVD release, was the front quote.
"It's not who you know. It's who you kill."
Thus, my trip to Future Shop was to be a grand day on taking chances on films! Let me tell you, THIS MOVIE IS SUPERB. It does for gangster films in the same way Akira Kurosawa does for humanistic films, with a kick of style! For the first time, you don't get constant gore & language, unlike Scorsese's mafia flicks.
The year: 1968.
It brings forth a man known by the name of Gangster, who is extremely arrogant in his own way, to have a meeting with "The Butcher Of Mayfair," Freddie Mays. Mays has just won a case against the city, in a matter of him killing a cop. An extremely well known man with the mafia who has just reached the top for whacking this crooked copper. But Mays is still having problems it seems. The problem? Lennie Taylor, another rival gang boss who plans to take out Freddie and capture his territory. But when Gangster hears of this (being as arrogant as he is), he pulls together a plan to take both of them out, leaving the rest for himself at the top. With an ending that'll make you watch the movie over and over again, "Gangster No. 1" is quite effectively THE crime drama of 2001, no doubt about it!
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Director Paul McGuigan directed Paul Bettany in "The Reckoning" which was a stylish medieval thriller. He also directed "Wicker Park" whose soundtrack CD far exceeded the merits of the confusingly edited film. "Gangster No. 1" is a decent crime drama that paints an unsympathetic look at Gangster 55 played by Paul Bettany in younger years and Malcolm McDowell in older years. Bettany, whose recent romantic comedy "Wimbledon" was delightful and shows great range, is pretty scary here as a guy who has a great talent for hurting people. He gets picked up in Freddie Mays' mob and apparently becomes jealous when Mays falls in love with the gorgeous Saffron Burrows. David Thewlis who played Paul Verlaine to Leonardo DiCaprio's Rimbaud in "Total Eclipse" and also starred with Brad Pitt in "7 Years in Tibet" and most recently in "Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban" does a nice job of being the randy high roller in youth and then the older and reformed ex-con 25 years later. Saffron Burrows who narrated the most recent Peter Pan movie and also played in "Troy" does a nice job as Karen who falls in love and then gets the ultimate sore throat. Malcolm McDowell whose career was launched with "A Clockwork Orange" and most recently was the billionaire tycoon in "In Good Company" brings a great intensity to the role before his final swan dive. Although this film is a bit bloody, it still was an interesting and entertaining crime genre film. The pacing is a tightly controlled rampage. I particularly enjoyed the lad running through the parking structure before Bettany's careening car. The film is more visceral than thoughtful, but still interesting cinema. Enjoy!
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By A Customer on June 22, 2002
GANGSTER #1 joins the elite group of the great mob films from the UK: THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY, SEXY BEAST, the original GET CARTER & even from the U.S.: THE LIMEY. malcolm mcdowell gives the best performance of his career since TIME AFTER TIME and that was 1979! it is a shame that this great brit actor had to make [bad] movies over the years (CALIGULA being 1 of them!). mcdowell is the title character who is shocked to find out his old friend/enemy, the original #1 (david thewliss)is being released from prison. he flashes back to 1968 in which he was "gangster #55" devilishly played by paul bettany & it focuses on how he met #1 and wound up being #1 himself. the violence is brutal especially 1 horrific scene where a mob boss thru his point of view is tortured & killed by bettany w/ his gun, his ax, his machete, his hands, his evil looks, etc. bettany strongly resembles mcdowell giving that CLOCKWORK ORANGE stare. it is strange and wacky that bettany grows up to be mcdowell while david thewliss matures to be-----david thewliss in his 60s under good makeup! still, this is a fantastic feature by paul mcguigan, very colorful with a wonderful late 60s soundtrack! it is in my top 10 best films list of 2002. a small great treasure!
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Gangster No. 1 is an absolute peach, a Cockney version Goodfellas, but darker. Whereas Scorcese paints a much larger picture in his maffia films, director Paul McGuigan narrows the focus on one upwardly mobile thug - depicting his meteoric rise from poolroom bum to king of the underworld (spanning the years 1968 - present day. Above all, Gangster No. 1 is a study of evil that makes Goodfellas look like Bugsy Malone. The acting, by Malcolm McDowell, David Thewliss (from "Naked") and in particular, the incendiary Paul Bettany - who is the pure personification of Evil - raises this movie high above Mafia-lite flicks like Snatch or Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrells. The film is top-quality in all other respects, too: the incidental music is spot on, the camerawork inventive and original, and - most importantly - Gangster No. 1 is a film that takes itself seriously. Not as high-budget or glamorous as Casino or Goodfellas (gangland London is no Las Vegas), but packs a powerful punch nevertheless.
Gangster No. 1 is a dark, brooding yet stylish film and shows that the Brits can make serious gangster movies when they put their minds to it. Non-Londoners might want to brush up on their Cockney slang, however, e.g. "You're having a laugh, arn't you?" = "You must be kidding", "Bird" = "Girlfriend", etc.
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