Archive of films Gangster No.1 / Gangster No.1

United Kingdom / Germany
2000, 103 min

Section: Focus on British Film (2000-2005)
Year: 2006

Gangster Paul Bettany gives a stirring performance in a film which gives us a glimpse of the criminal psyche underlying the blood-soaked London underworld at the end of the 1960s. The cast also includes Malcolm McDowell and Saffron Burrows.


“It’s not who you know, it’s who you kill” ran the tagline to director Paul McGuigan’s sophomore feature, from the year 2000. The then little known Paul Bettany proved a riveting screen presence as the nameless Young Gangster, who supplants his boss (David Thewlis) in the blood-spattered criminal underworld of late-1960s London. One particularly unforgettable scene – Bettany’s narcissistic gangster strips and neatly folds his fashionably sharp attire before turning his attention to the messy, bloody task of torturing and murdering his victim, the ordeal filmed from the latter’s perspective as he drifts in and out of consciousness – is a brilliantly conceived and strikingly original tour-de-force. A gripping investigation of evil psychosis, Gangster No.1 co-stars Malcolm McDowell and Saffron Burrows.

About the director

Paul McGuigan (b. 1963, Belshill, Scotland) was a successful photographer in Glasgow before branching out into TV commercials and doc. films. In 1988 he won the Best Newcomer Award from Britain’s Royal Television Society for his short film The Granton Star, based on a short story by Irvine Welsh. He expanded this into a feature, The Acid House, comprising 3 stories drawn from Welsh’s collection of the same name. McGuigan’s real breakthrough was his follow-up, Gangster No.1, although he stumbled commercially with his next film, The Reckoning, a murder mystery set in the Middle Ages, starring P. Bettany and W. Dafoe. The director’s last two pictures, both starring Josh Hartnett, have seen him work in North America: Wicker Park, a Hollywood remake of intricate French thriller L’Appartement; and this year’s elaborate crime puzzler Lucky Number Slevin.


British Council
10 Spring Gardens, SW1A 2BN, London
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 207 389 3067
Fax: +44 207 389 3175

About the film

Color, 35 mm

Section: Focus on British Film (2000-2005)
Director: Paul McGuigan
Screenplay: Johnny Ferguson
Dir. of Photography: Peter Sova
Music: John Dankworth
Editor: Andrew Hulme
Producer: Norma Heyman, Jonathan Cavendish
Production: FilmFour, Pagoda Film Production
Cast: Malcolm McDowell, David Thewlis, Paul Bettany, Saffron Burrows, Kenneth Cranham, Jamie Foreman
Contact: British Council


Geraldine Higgins

Saffron Burrows



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