September 6 sees the DVD release of SUS, an emotionally charged and incredibly tense crime drama from Barrie McKeeffe, writer of the legendary The Long Good Friday. This is just the latest long tradition of powerful British crime films. We look down ten of the best portrayals of the wrong side of the law this country has to offer…
1 Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Guy Richie 1998) – The film that unleashed not only Guy Richie, but also Jason Statham, and Vinnie Jones’ “acting” career, upon the world. Liberally and unashamedly borrowing from Scorsese and Tarantino but with a uniquely British flavour, it is often mocked for the rash of lame copycat mockney crime flicks that jumped on its bandwagon, but over a decade after its original release its still feels as breathless and exciting as ever.
2 Get Carter (Mike Hodges 1971) – Michael Caine at his best and coolest. Blunt and savage, the film sees Caine’s titular East End gangster Carter travelling up North to unleash a whirlwind of violence to avenge the death of his brother. Avoid the awful Sly Stallone re-tread, which Caine inexplicably has a cameo in, but keep an eye out for the little seen but really quite good 1970s blaxploitation remake Hit Man.
3 The Business (Nick Love 2005) – The Football Factory team of Danny Dyer, Tamer Hassan and director Nick Love re-unite for this 80s set tale of the hey day of the Costa Del Crime. Sticking religiously to the ‘rise and fall’ gangster movie formula established as far back as the 1930s, the film wallows in the excess of the Thatcherite era, unashamedly glamorising violence, cocaine, bad tracksuits and Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Don’t worry, it’s all meant to be ironic. We hope.
4 Sexy Beast (Jonathon Glazer 2000) – Pop promo Jonathon Glazer’s film (he did Radiohead’s trippy Street Spirit video) twisted the post-Lock Stock British gangster movie to a nightmarish fever dream. Ex-con Ray Winstone is enjoying a peaceful existence on the day-glo coast of Spain, apart from the odd falling boulder, when he is visited by Sir Ben Kingsley’s rabid insane recruiter for the London underworld to convince him to pull one last job. The film loses it’s momentum in the second half, but Kingsley’s performance is utterly terrifying and completely unforgettable.
5 Brighton Rock (John Boulting 1947) – An iconic classic of British cinema, based on the novel by Graham Greene. Richard Attenborough made his breakthrough role as the psychotic you gangster Pinkie, reprising the character he played on the west end stage, running rampant through Second World War era Brighton. The film was re-titled “Young Scarface” for American audiences. It also features an appearance from original Doctor Who William Hartnell.
6 The Krays(Peter Medak 1990) – Synthpop new romantics Spandau Ballet may not have been the most obvious place to look for someone to portray the most notorious figures in the history of British organised crime, but real life brothers Martin and Gary Kemp pulled off the roles with real menace. So much so that the younger Kemp was still riffling on the persona a decade later in Eastenders. The film also features a notoriously controversial scene that popularised the term ‘Chelsea Smile’.
7 London to Brighton (Paul Andrew Williams 2006) – Cockney gangsters meet Ken Loach/ Mike Leigh kitchen sink gritty realism in Paul Andrew Williams superb no-budget debut. A prostitute and a young girl desperately flee to the south coast in order to escape the viscous son of a perverted crime boss and taking part in a taunt game of cat and mouse by the seaside. Williams’ career seems to have stalled as of late, but this blistering, lean, gritty thriller is definitely worth tracking down.
8 Layer Cake (Matthew Vaughn 2004) – When Daniel Craig was first announced as the new James Bond in 2005, this was the film many turned to for re-assurance. Suave, calm and controlled, Craig excels as the nameless businessman who’s business happens to be crime. Former Guy Richie producer Matthew Vaughn directed his debut film with style and confidence (look at the Duran Duran accompanied kettle beatdown or the David Fincher style chemist scenes), making his success with this year’s Kick Ass no surprise.
9 The Long Good Friday (John MacKenzie 1980) – Often cited as the British Godfather, and with good reason. Bob Hoskins, in a career best performance, stars as Harold Shands, an old school, last of the old guard gang boss, desperately trying to cling on to his empire over a particularly trying Easter weekend. Watch out for an early appearance from a young Peirce Brosnan as an IRA assassin. Written by Barrie Keeffe, who has recently returned to screen with,
10 SUS (Robert Heath 2010) – Barrie Keeffe, the writer of The Long Good Friday, returns with another powerful slice of hard hitting late 70s set crime drama. Election night 1979: as the country historically goes to the polls a young black man is arrested on suspicion of murdering his pregnant wife. Two racists police officers, including talented up-and-comer Rafe Spall, are eager to lure a quick confession out of him. Yet things do not go to plan and violence spins out of control in this timely and important look at the ugly side to British society.
SUS is released on DVD 6 September 2010 read more here