My Top 3 British Gangster Movies…
OK. This is a real old dad’s thing. How many times have you heard people listing their top 10 or top 3 films? It is actually quite difficult to do when you consider all the different genres and eras.
In a future post I intend to explain my top 10 films of all time – and all genres. But for now I just wanted to highlight my top 3 British gangster films. In order to make it easier I have made this short list only from the serious films. For example, I did not take into consideration the two famous Guy Ritchie films (his first two I believe) as I see them more as comedies. I refer of course to Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrells and Snatch. Both excellent films in their own right no doubt, but definitely made with a sense of humour and storylines which are intentionally farcical.
Ranking the 3…
If I was asked to rank them in order of preference it would be very difficult but it would probably be the same as their chronological order. So here goes:
- Get Carter (1971). Starring Michael Caine, Ian Hendry and John Osborne
- The Long Good Friday (1979). Starring Bob Hoskins, Helen Mirren and Derek Thompson
- Layer Cake (2004). Starring Daniel Craig, Colm Meaney and Michael Gambon
This is a classic tale of revenge and the bad guys getting their comeuppance. That’s not to say the lead character is not himself a bad guy. Far from it.
Jack Carter (Caine) is a brutal enforcer for London’s top gangsters. When his brother dies he returns to Newcastle to arrange the funeral. Convinced that his brother was murdered, Carter tracks down a local villain Eric (Ian Hendry), who leads him to crime boss Cyril Kinnear (Osborne) . From there, Carter plots his revenge while being pursued by his own bosses men who have been sent to take him back to London. It becomes a fast paced cat and mouse game while Carter searches for the truth about his brother’s killer.
Made in 1979 but not released till 1980. The film’s main character Harold (Hoskins) returns from a business trip full of optimism. He is an East End gangster trying to strike a deal with an American (mafia) firm to develop the old London docklands. Things do not go to plan as bombs go off and people close to him are killed. Whilst trying to figure out who is behind it all Harold discovers that while he was away on business his associates have been dealing with the IRA and now they want more.
Bob Hoskins was not a tall bloke but he plays the part of the Big Man so well in this film. He reels off some fantastic quotable lines. Most notably when informed that his old friend’s dead body is about to be collected in an ice cream van “to keep it all incognito” he says “There’s a lot of dignity in that aint there? Goin’ out on a raspberry ripple.” Then there is the famous scene at the end of the film which among many other gems contains the line: “The Mafia? I’ve shit ’em!” Class. And did he really say “You don’t crucify people. Not on Good Friday!”? I must watch the film again just to check that one. Brilliant.
Not only did this film make a star out of Helen Mirren, it also gave a young Pierce Brosnan his first break – as an IRA hitman!
Layer Cake – A Man With No Name Film
The film revolves around a London-based criminal whose name we never hear (played by Daniel Craig), working in the cocaine trade but planning on leaving the drug business. Once he has earned enough to retire he thinks he will just walk away from it all. But he does not account for the darker side of his chosen profession. His boss hands him a couple of dodgy tasks to perform which soon threaten to drag him back into the seedy underworld. One is to find the daughter of a former associate – now a powerful businessman. The second is to find a buyer for boxes full of Ecstasy tablets. The drugs were taken from a Serbian gang who were double crossed and are now understandably very pissed off.
The mix of villains includes “load mouthed wannabe gangsters”, a Serbian neo Nazi gang and a pair of old school, street smart scousers. Needless to say, events rapidly conspire against Mr. Craig’s character and he needs to use his best assets – his wits and intelligence – to escape this murky world.
While Layer Cake does have some funny moments it is not deliberately comical like the aforementioned Ritchie films. It has a clever and intricate plot made all the more believable by its great cast.
So there you have it. My all-time top 3 British gangster films. I hope to be sitting down to watch these with Dani when he is old enough. For now of course I have to be content with Disney classics and the odd superhero movie.
These kind of lists are always contentious so if you disagree then why not send in your alternative list?