It’s been just over a week since Guy Ritchie’s latest, The Gentlemen, blew up big screens. Bringing together an ace cast of bandits, Ritchie returned to form to bring us a flick in his signature British crime style.
Though Ritchie’s films are almost a genre of their own, he’s managed to take the lead on British crime, having other greats like Mathew Vaughan in his orbit and others in his dust. There are a few elements we expect in British crime flicks, and not all were created by nor are they exclusive to Richie. Considering The Gentlemen is still dominating the box office, we figure you guys like it. If you want more but have already seen every Ritchie flick from Snatch to Rock n Rolla, here are five other British crime giants to satiate your earl grey craving.
Gangster No. 1 (2000)
After you see this one, I dare you not to pronounce the film’s title with the heavy cadence of its lead. Paul McGuigan’s take on the crime flick is a successful one. Chronicling the rise of a young gangster, the film riffs off the common theme of vying for a crown. Jumping through time, a Gangster’s life is chronicled, from being recruited to a gang by its kingpin, his rise in power, and the eventual threat to it. Mostly serving as narrator, Malcolm McDowell plays the aged version of his younger self played by Paul Bettany. This film is filled with British heavyweights as lords of the underworld and is a thrilling tale of grasping at and holding onto a crown, a crown that tends to lay atop a heavy head.
What’s incredible about this one is, though it’s a pure crime flick, it, at times, feels more like watching horror by way of American Psycho. Bring your poncho and taste for British slang and you’ll enjoy this start to finish.
Layer Cake (2004)
The most similar to the Ritchie films, Layer Cake is another gangster flick about a big mess of eccentrics annoying a man trying to escape the business. This isn’t a coincidence, director Matthew Vaughan (Kingsman: The Secret Service) is often seen near and confused with Ritchie, and even served as Producer for Ritchie’s Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
Approaching his meticulously planned early retirement, a drug lord (Daniel Craig) is given a difficult final task from his boss which sets him down a spiral of disaster, running into and clashing with new and old friends, a dangerous dame, and a couple of real idiots. The character archetypes of Ritchie style films are there, and it’s as messy and quotable as the films in that category. It’s an absolute monster of a gangster flick and is rumoured to be the performance that got Daniel Craig the role as James Bond.
In Bruges (2008)
The biggest departure from the Ritchie formula, In Bruges is much more drama than gangster flick, but at the same time, it’s nothing if not a quick-witted gangster film full up with eccentric characters with conflicting desires. It’s both the antithesis and a carbon copy of popular British crime dramas, which gives it the ability to pull at every part of the audience.
After botching a job, a hitman named Ray (Colin Farrell) and his partner, Ken (Brendan Gleeson) are sent to Bruges, a quaint historic town, to wait for further instructions from their boss. Being a brat about the entire excursion, Ray behaves like a stir-crazy brute, while Ken manages to learn that this might have been a gift of a vacation before Ray has to clock out.
There’s a lot to love about this hilarious, scary, and emotional take on the gangster film, one that ask us to love and hate so many characters simultaneously. Farrell’s performance is out of this world and earned him a deserved Golden Globe. If you enjoyed Seven Psychopaths, the heavily decorated Three Billboards outside Ebbing Missouri, then I’d add this Martin McDonagh flick to your list.
Sexy Beast (2000)
The feature debut of Jonathan Glazer (Under the Skin), Sexy Beast stars Ben Kingsley as a gangster dragging Gal (Ray Winstone) back into the game for one last job. “One last job,” just say it. It’s the perfect setup for a British crime romp.
This one is a wild tale, that, though it centers around a bank robbery, barely has anything to do with it. Though the typical ride through the British underbelly you’re seeking, this one shares things in common with Donnie Darko as much as The Hit; it has a demonic rabbit. Glazer’s mind-bending style is all over this movie which would otherwise be a straightforward crime flick. It’s a top tier performance for not only Kingsley, but the remaining main cast and is absolutely worthy of your gangster watch list.
Though this trip through the underground drug-dealing scene feels quintessentially British, it’s based on a Danish film of the same name by Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, Neon Demon). Though the original sparked a trilogy, this one flick is a quick sensory hit that reads as a Gonzo take on the journey through money and drug madness. After making a bit of a gamble with some borrowed money, a drug dealer’s life spins out over the course of a week as he desperately tries to move money and drugs around to cover his error. Yes, it’s a lot like Uncut Gems, if that’s what you’re thinking, though less family-oriented.
Richard Coyle (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) stars as Frank, a proper good British gangster name, frantically navigating the London underbelly, smashing into some nicknamed tuffs, desperately trying to appease suit-clad bosses. Again, these movies have similarities.
So while Ritchie tends to be the name synonymous with British crime flicks, there are more out there than our favourite Statham laden crime films. There’s always a bespoke boss who speaks in slow-paced maxims, there’s often a slim blonde with confusing allegiances, a few old and new friends who manage to make things more difficult, and there’s usually a protagonist just centimetres away from getting out of the game. If you had fun with the latest Ritchie installment, The Gentlemen, and are looking for more, these five flicks should do it.