Tag Archives: Villain

A Week In Film #130: British gangster business

Villain
Fantastic early 70s British gangster flick in which East End mob boss Vic Dakin (Richard Burton in Kray-like mode) finds himself increasingly under pressure and out of touch as he tries to stay on top of the game. Grim, gritty, no happy endings, and filmed in a Britain of unwelcoming industrial estates, decrepit railways arches and unswinging London streets.

A young Ian McShane works well as his unwilling catamite, with strong character support from the likes of TP McKenna, Colin Welland, Donald Sinden and Nigel Davenport. Michael Tuchner directs from a Clement/La Frenais script, based on an adaptation of a James Barlow (no, not that one) by Al Lettieri – Sollozo from The Godfather!

Triggermen
I’m not sure what the point of this was – Neil Morrissey and Adrian Dunbar are a pair of British conmen in the States who somehow get mistaken for hitmen hired to take out mob boss Pete Postlethwaite; soon the real assassins (Donnie Wahlberg and Michael Rapaport) turn up, hilarity/high-jinks/hysteria etc ensues.

Not really bad, just mostly unlikeable with nothing to add to the canon. A pays-the-mortgage movie rather than a calling card.

Circus
British gangster film set in Brighton, which is bold, given the one Brighton-set British gangster film most people will have in their minds. This does not challenge that associative hegemony on any level, though when in the opening minutes you see Christopher Biggins being tortured, you are hopeful.

John Hannah and Famke Janssen are a husband-and-wife con team. Brian Conley (yes, that Brian Conley) is a sadistic gang boss-cum-casino owner. Eddie Izzard is a sadistic loan shark-cum-bookie. Peter Stomare is a creepy mark-cum-blackmailer. Tom Lister Jr is a romantic enforcer-cum-lover. And yet with all this cum flying around, this is a film utterly devoid of spunk, with just splutters out halfway in, and doesn’t even try to have anything approaching a satisfactory ending.