Tag Archives: Villain (1971)

Sexy Beast: the last good British gangster film

KingsleyOkay, I’m calling it. Sexy Beast is the last good British gangster film.

I was reminded of just how good a film Sexy Beast is – and how anaemic and derivative just about every single Brit gangster film made since is in comparison – after re-watching it on the weekend.

Gary ‘Gal’ Dove (Ray Winstone) is a retired safecracker now living the good life with his illegal proceeds in a Spanish villa with his ex-porn star wife, Deedee (Amanda Dove). Gal wants to do nothing more than sit in the sun with Deedee, and fellow London underworld refugees, Aitch (Cavan Kendall) and Aitch’s wife, Jackie (Julianne White).

Their peaceful life is thrown into complete chaos with the arrival of former underworld associate, Don Logan (a stellar turn by Ben Kingsley), a foul mouthed, psychotic gangster, who has come on behalf London crime lord Teddy Bass (Ian McShane), to recruit Gal to help pull a heist Bass is planning.

Gal wants no part in the job, setting the scene for a gradually escalating series of confrontations between he and Logan, who simply will not take no for an answer. Logan’s attempts to bully Gal to take part in the job start humourlessly enough but soon escalate, first in a wave of expletive laden threats, then rehashing the sordid underworld pasts of Deedee and Jackie.… Read more

Bob Hoskins and The Long Good Friday

Hoskins

A couple of years ago I had a lengthy exchange on social media with a British crime writer on the subject of what was the best crime film to come out of the UK, Get Carter (1971) or The Long Good Friday, released in 1980.

I have to fess up that at the time I took exception to his claim Get Carter had aged badly and The Long Good Friday was the superior piece of cinema, but he was right and I was wrong. I was reminded about this last week, when I heard the star of the Long Good Friday, Bob Hoskins, had died at the age of 71.

Get Carter and The Long Good Friday are both good films, especially in comparison to the slew of movies riffing on London’s underworld past that followed in the wake of Guy Richie’s rather middling effort, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

The Long Good Friday is the story of working class gangster made good, Harold Shand, whose criminal empire starts to unravel, for reasons he is totally unclear about, over a bank holiday long weekend.

Hoskins owns this film from the first moment we see him, walking down a concourse in Heathrow Airport, having just returned from business overseas, the eighties soundtrack pounding in the background.… Read more

Richard Burton and the face of a Villain

Villain_USHSRichard Burton has been on my mind ever since I watched him a couple of weeks ago in the strange 1971 British film, Villain.

Burton was a regular fixture on the TV screen in our house when I was young. Like a lot of women of her generation, my mother loved him ever since he played Mark Anthony opposite Elizabeth Taylor in the 1963 classic, Cleopatra (the film on which the two met for the first time).

Dad liked his war films, of which there were a few, including Where Eagles Dare (1968), Raid on Rommel (1971), The Wild Geese (1978) and The Longest Day (1962). Burton only had a very brief role in the later, as an RAF pilot shot down over Normandy. A US marine cut off from his outfit stumbles across him lying in the bushes next to a dead German soldier, and Burton gets to utter the immortal line: “He’s dead. I’m crippled. You’re lost. Do you suppose it’s always like that? I mean war.”

Only recently have I come to discover and appreciate some Burton’s other films. His turn as Alec Leamas in the incredibly bleak and noirish 1965 spy thriller, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold still stands as the best and most realistic screen depiction of the Cold War.… Read more