In the way that Chicago, New York, Boston and other major US cities have their own brand of mobster films, so do we in good old Blighty. There may be common themes—sex, violence, a sociopathic unconcern towards the feelings of other people, and, at some point you’re going to meet a scumbag crime boss who makes your skin crawl—but there’s generally less emphasis on the glamour of the game, and even when the gang lords are living high on the hog (in the 1970s, that meant having a colour TV and a full fridge). There’s still something a little too domestic, shall we say ‘grotty’, to match up to many of the lifestyles as depicted in, say, Goodfellas or The Godfather.
Admittedly the vast majority are set in the capital, hence the Cockney phrase in the title of my piece, taken from the popular 1979 toe-tapper by the East End duo Chas ‘n Dave:
Here we go:
1. Performance (1970): Jagger’s best role…a low bar some would say, but a great movie.
2. Long Good Friday (1980): Altogether now: ‘Eric’s been blown up!’
3. Get Carter (1971) – Michael Caine goes up North to Newcastle, to wreak vengeance on his brother’s killers. Great score by Roy Budd. Stallone remade it in 2000 – badly. And to his eternal shame, Caine took a role in it. Wot a Merchant Banker, as the phrase goes.
4. Layer Cake (2004) – the role that sealed the Bond gig for Daniel Craig:
5. Villain (1971) – wanna see Richard Burton play a Gay Cockney Gangster?
6. The Bank Job (2008) – Not yer usual ‘Stath’, based on real-life events…
7. Mona Lisa (1986) – Hoskins again, this time in a softer role as kind-hearted ex-con George, tasked to look after a high class call girl by his scumbag boss Mortwell (a very nasty Michael Caine):
8. Stormy Monday (1988) – another trip up North to the wilds of Newcastle, this time in the company of Sting, Tommy Lee Jones, Melanie Griffith and Sean Bean. ‘Howay the lads!’, as President Carter said on his 1977 visit to the city.
9. Brighton Rock (1947) – John Boulting’s gangster flick is set in the (then) seedy south coast town of Brighton, where young razor-wielding psychopath ‘Pinkie’ Brown (Richard Attenborough) literally cuts a swathe through his rivals…
10. Night & The City (1950) – Richard Widmark as an American hustler coming a cropper in London after dark…
Don’t be shy – tell us what you think are the roughest gangster movies ever made on the other side of the pond.