A portrait of a cold-blooded young gangster living and loathing in 1960s London, this drama features Malcolm McDowell in a major role in his first British picture in years. McDowell opens the film as the present day Gangster 55, who learns that an old associate, gangster Freddie Mays (David Thewlis), has just been released from prison after serving a 30-year sentence. The story then flashes back to 1968, when the young Gangster 55 (Paul Bettany) makes Mays' acquaintance and subsequently wins his trust by dealing with his enemies from a rival gang. The relationship between the two men is threatened when Mays falls for Karen (Saffron Burrows), a no-nonsense dancer. When 55 learns that Lennie (Jamie Foreman), a rival gang leader, plans to ambush Mays and Karen one night, he pits the two gangs against one another so that he can emerge as Gangster No. 1. The film was directed by Paul McGuigan, who previously examined the crusty underbelly of British society with his screen adaptation of Irvine Welsh's The Acid House (1998).
by Rebecca Flint Marx synopsis