Mixed or average reviews - based on 15 Critics What's this?

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Generally favorable reviews- based on 25 Ratings

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  • Summary: The brutal, mesmerizing story of a deadly battle of wills between a gangland leader and his apprentice, a young man who emulates him to the point of psychosis and beyond. (IFC Films)
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. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. The actors all function as best they can as glowering clichés, though the narrative's temporal jump presents difficulties.

See all 15 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 10 out of 12
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 12
  3. Negative: 2 out of 12
  1. DavidJ.
    Sep 27, 2005
    Better than getting kicked in the face with a pair of golf shoes.
  2. Aug 4, 2011
    Enjoyable 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. Expand
  3. WinstonJ.
    May 16, 2006
    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. Collapse

See all 12 User Reviews