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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: March 15: Gangster No. 1


March 15: Gangster No. 1

"Chronicles the rise and fall of a prominent, and particularly ruthless English gangster."

   Gangster No. 1 is brutal, violent, psychotic, and... let's say unique. Paul Bettany stars as a gangster who will do whatever it takes to be the king. Bettany is amazing in the role, as The Gangster, and shows that he is still one of today's most underrated and underused talents. He's charismatic, creepy, and just plain insane. He definitely carries an otherwise average film. As a whole, the film is just as messy as the violence. There is a small, very underdeveloped plot and it's certainly the same story we've seen countless times before. The acting is decent, by the supporting roles, but no one quite shines as much as Bettany. Malcolm McDowell plays the older version of The Gangster, and while the rest of the cast get makeup overhauls to play their older selves, McDowell's presence is distracting. I feel his role in the film was only to remind the viewers of A Clockwork Orange, which Gangster No. 1 seems to borrow heavily from. 

Sadly, there is no Korova Milkbar.

   The best part of Gangster No. 1 is the camerawork. Paul McGuigan, the director, utilizes many scenes filmed from the first person, bringing the violence into your living room. There is one scene that stands out, in particular, where Bettany's character is torturing a man. The viewpoint is through the eyes of the victim, and Bettany's insanity is witnessed first hand. As the man loses consciousness, the camera fades in and out, as well as portraying the sound of the man's head being bludgeoned. The entire scene is haunting and Gangster No. 1 is worth watching just for it alone. 

This happens. 

   Overall, Gangster No. 1 is an average crime flick with fleeting moments of brilliance and terror. There is a particular effect where Bettany screams and a loud static rings in your ears, that I have never seen before, and found it to be very effective in showing the man's spiral into insanity. Bettany is the best part of the film and replacing him, when he's older, with a much less talented (or in this case, over-acting) Malcolm McDowell was just a bad decision. There is continued narration throughout the film that seemingly steals lines from Bettany, and I wish he was given an even bigger opportunity to show off what skill he has. I would recommend Gangster No. 1, with hesitance because, although the material is familiar, it's execution is unique and rather obscure. 

The Good:
Paul Bettany... before he had to be a priest in everything (see The Da Vinci Code, The Reckoning, Priest, and similarly in Legion)
The Bad: 
poor storytelling that jumps around a little too much
The Ugly:
a scene of torture that makes you cringe

Overall: 6.7/10

Best Quote:
Gangster: One day I'll catch up with you. You want a war? I'll give you a f**king war one arm tied behind me back. I'll shoot you - blow you to kingdom come. They'll need a dustpan and brush to scrape you off the walls. Make mincemeat out of ya. Pie and mash, puddles of blood. I'll leave you lying there. Go rot, the lot of you. Calling me a c**t?  

Watch This Instead:
Snatch- still one of the best London crime movies to date
The Departed- Scorsese.. 'nuff said
Bronson- read my review here to see why. 
Casino- one of my favorite DeNiro films


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