Gangster No. 1 is an absolute peach, a Cockney version Goodfellas, but darker. Whereas Scorcese paints a much larger picture in his maffia films, director Paul McGuigan narrows the focus on one upwardly mobile thug - depicting his meteoric rise from poolroom bum to king of the underworld (spanning the years 1968 - present day. Above all, Gangster No. 1 is a study of evil that makes Goodfellas look like Bugsy Malone. The acting, by Malcolm McDowell, David Thewliss (from "Naked") and in particular, the incendiary Paul Bettany - who is the pure personification of Evil - raises this movie high above Mafia-lite flicks like Snatch or Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrells. The film is top-quality in all other respects, too: the incidental music is spot on, the camerawork inventive and original, and - most importantly - Gangster No. 1 is a film that takes itself seriously. Not as high-budget or glamorous as Casino or Goodfellas (gangland London is no Las Vegas), but packs a powerful punch nevertheless.
Gangster No. 1 is a dark, brooding yet stylish film and shows that the Brits can make serious gangster movies when they put their minds to it. Non-Londoners might want to brush up on their Cockney slang, however, e.g. "You're having a laugh, arn't you?" = "You must be kidding", "Bird" = "Girlfriend", etc.