Metascore
60

Mixed or average reviews - based on 15 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 10 out of 15
  2. Negative: 2 out of 15
  1. 80
    Like almost everything in this clever, brutal and strangely soulful movie, the time and place are accomplished by suggestion.
  2. Taut, corrosive and compelling, Gangster No. 1 has the galvanic appeal of "Little Caesar" and "Scarface" in its full-sized portrait of a brilliant but twisted and savage criminal.
  3. While you think you're watching just another in a series of British gangster films, you may suddenly realize that you're watching what is, thus far, the year's best horror movie.
  4. 75
    This conclusion is too pat to be satisfying, but the film has a kind of hard, cold effect.
  5. A canny, derivative, wildly gruesome portrait of a London sociopath who's the scariest of sadists, in part because he's also a very courtly one.
  6. 75
    There's a touch of second-rate playwriting about it that imparts a flattened feel to the end of an otherwise crackerjack picture.
  7. 70
    Works on so many levels that it must be reckoned with. It certainly feels unique, and sets itself apart from most American gangster films in its stark refusal to paint the lead gangster as likable or indeed anything other than the vicious socio-psychopath he is.
  8. 70
    It's Bettany's portrait of the monster as a young man that rivets attention. So remember the name, or don't. Just watch Bettany strut his stuff. You'll know a star when you see one.
  9. 70
    The psychological underpinnings give this picture a charged emotional atmosphere. The dizzying unspoken feelings between the two men mesh so well that the movie seems to have been worked out like a perverse drawing-room comedy.
  10. The movie's key asset is young Bettany as a worthy successor to the "Clockwork Orange" tradition of McDowell. With Bettany, a star is born, even if his character is horrific.
  11. 60
    The movie's captivating details are all in the performances, from Foreman's barking-mad Taylor to Thewlis's smoothly sinister Freddie and Bettany/McDowell's hard-eyed gangster, an amoral bottom-feeder with an expedient streak of sadism.
  12. We're left with a metallic aftertaste.
  13. Reviewed by: Derek Elley
    40
    Often nastily violent, and defiantly foul-mouthed in a realistic but dramatically unnecessary way, this portrait of a ruthless young hood in '60s London has several fine qualities but dilutes them with disorganized direction.
  14. 38
    See it only for Paul Bettany's performance.
  15. The actors all function as best they can as glowering clichés, though the narrative's temporal jump presents difficulties.
User Score
7.9

Generally favorable reviews- based on 25 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 10 out of 12
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 12
  3. Negative: 2 out of 12
  1. Aug 4, 2011
    6
    Enjoyable tale of a aging London gangsters reminiscent look back upon his violent rise from muscle man to top dog through the 1960's andEnjoyable tale of a aging London gangsters reminiscent look back upon his violent rise from muscle man to top dog through the 1960's and 1970's. Well acted all around and Paul Bettany plays the role of a psychotic young hood brilliantly. Well worth a watch. Full Review »
  2. WinstonJ.
    May 16, 2006
    2
    This is a painfully bad film, though stylish to a degree. It betrays its origins as a play throughout. Whereas a film like Closer, for This is a painfully bad film, though stylish to a degree. It betrays its origins as a play throughout. Whereas a film like Closer, for instance, achieved the transition from stage to screen with some good results, this fails miserably. In particular, the progression from the Sixties to modern day is ludicrous: summaries of the Seventies (a shot of Sid Vicious), and Eighties (snorting cocaine) are perfunctory, and the 'ageing' of the actors - powdered wigs etc. - is ludicrous. McDowell is a terrible miscasting; the scene between him and the older Frank is excruciatingly bad. And the phoney East-End accents? Bettany's performance redeems it marginally (who could forget "this is my favourite axe..."). Otherwise, this is a trainwreck. To be avoided. Full Review »
  3. DavidJ.
    Sep 27, 2005
    9
    Better than getting kicked in the face with a pair of golf shoes.