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This film has some of the sharpest writing, mesmerising acting, stylish editing and unconventional cinematography I have ever seen.
Paul Bettany is actually frightening as young Gangster: in this film he seems to hold a rage within him that always remains just below the surface of his completely calm but fuming expression, but which occaisionally bursts out in short, sharp explosions, bordering on pure madness. When he forces his 'victims' (for want of a better word) to look at him - "Look at my eyes" - you find your gaze riveted to the screen.
Malcolm MacDowell is equally brilliant as Gangster's older self, displaying how truly unhinged the character is, how he has been damaged by his quest for power. And David Thewlis is, as usual, perfect in his role of Freddie Mays - sleek, smart, clever - the epitome of British gangster without becoming a cliche, as he brings something to his character which the usual No#1 Gangster in British films is almost always without.
An amazing film, I strongly suggest you watch it: it will broaden your mind and change your previous ideas of controversy.
There are some highly memorable scenes in this, most particularly the gruesome blood-splattered part where Bettany literally butchers a rival mobster, and then takes a shower afterwards with his weapons! And the scene where McDowell rages about still being top dog, after letting it slip that he's effectively tired of living a completely loveless life and wants done with it all, is top quality stuff. There is no hero-worshipping nonsense about gangsters in this film. Bettany's idolising of the gang-leader is shown to be as immature and pathetic as any schoolboy crush. The erotic undertones to his "crush" on Freddy Mays are done with great subtlety. And the gangsters in old age are shown to be nothing more than clapped-out old has-beens still fighting yesterday's battles. This is one of those films that you see more in each time you watch it. Highly recommended.