Paul Bettany, Malcolm McDowell & Saffron Burrows
One of the lead roles
The film opens with the flamboyant Gangster in his middle-age, portrayed by Malcolm McDowell, surrounded by his friends and attending a boxing match. Upon hearing the name of Freddie Mays
in the conversation, he becomes upset and leaves without a word.
The film then flashes back to the 1960s, with a younger Gangster. He comes to the attention of a very influential London gangster, Freddie Mays
, who recruits him to be an enforcer for his gang. The Gangster is eager to please, and proves his loyalty to Mays
by enthusiastically dropping a car onto a mechanic's head after he attempts to stab Mays
. The Gangster quickly becomes obsessed with Mays
' glamorous lifestyle and success, ogling his expensive suits, his watch, and in particular his tie-pin. The Gangster's obsession becomes more intense, to the point of wanting to be Freddie Mays
, even picturing himself sitting in Mays
The Gangster soon discovers that Mays
' main rival, Lenny Taylor, is planning on killing Mays
. Instead of warning his boss, the Gangster decides to let the attack take place, even killing a member of his own gang who was set on going straight to Mays
. The attack goes on as planned, and the Gangster sits in a car nearby to watch as Mays
is gunned down and his fiance Karen's neck is cut.
That same night, the Gangster brutally murders Lenny in an extended torture/murder scene. The Gangster shoots Lenny in the leg then calmly turns up the Hi-Fi to drown the resulting screams. After stripping to his underwear, presumably to avoid staining his suit with blood, the Gangster brutally attacks Lenny with a wine bottle, an axe, an ice pick, a machete and a fruit bowl, all amdist a constant stream of kicks and verbal abuse. He finally kills Taylor by ramming his head through a pane of glass, then smokes a cigarette whilst continuing to curse at Lenny's corpse. Most of the scene is shown from Lenny's point-of-view, with images and sounds fading in and out and growing more dim as the victim moves in and out of consciousness and slowly dies.
To the Gangster's surprise, Freddie Mays
and Karen were not killed in the attack Lenny organised earlier that evening. However, Mays
is unjustly convicted of the murder of Lenny and given a 25 year prison sentence. With Mays
locked up and out of the way, the Gangster consolidates his power over the city's underworld. In the intervening years, he organizes the Brinks Heist, runs a casino, fixes horse races, and builds his gang to 300 men strong while during this period, many of the original men from Mays
' crew begin to fall by the wayside as some are killed, some retire and one in particular, ends up in jail for murdering his wife in a supermarket. At this point, about two-thirds of the way through, counting down from 1969-1999, we return to 1999 and the Gangster is once more portrayed by Malcolm McDowell.
finally comes out of prison a changed man and an educated one, holding a bachelor of arts degree. The Gangster is ready for a battle, but Mays
seemingly has no fight left in him. Mays
wants only to marry Karen, who has waited thirty years for him, and live in peace. He tells the Gangster that he is welcome to the London underworld and will not stand in his way. The Gangster becomes irate that Mays
is seemingly happier with nothing than the Gangster is with everything, and threatens Mays
with a gun. He then gives Mays
the gun and begs him to kill him, but Mays
merely smirks and leaves saying "Who'd wanna be Freddie Mays
In the face of his rival's sneering indifference, the Gangster loses his mind and ends the film standing on top of a tall block of flats in his underwear, throwing money in the air and laughing maniacally before committing suicide by leaping off the building. His last words are "I'm number one."