Synopsis by Paul Brenner
The Derek Bentley Case has been an uneasy blight on the British legal system since the early 1950s. Two young, frightened boys were caught by police trying to break into to a building. One of the boys had a gun. When the policeman reached out to the youth to turn over the gun, his friend shouted "Let him have it," and the policeman was killed by a gun blast. Whether the boy understood "Let him have it" to mean he should turn over the gun or to kill the police officer has been debated ever since. But the result was the 19-year-old boy was executed for the crime -- only to be posthumously exonerated in 1953. In this dark and biting film by Peter Medak, the life of Derek Bentley (Chris Eccleston) that led up to the crime is recreated in pitiful detail, as well as the ensuing trial and execution. The story begins in 1952, when the likable Bentley is released from reform school. Bentley is an impressionable young man who returns home to his loving family -- his parents (Tom Courtenay and Eileen Atkins) and sister (Clare Holman) -- but becomes involved with a group of friends, led by the intimidating Chris (Paul Reynolds), who live in the poverty of post-World War II Britain and escape their bleak world by emulating the American gangster films they see at the local cinema. They play-act at being gansters, but with real guns ... and tragic results.
death-penalty, gun, killing, police-officer, teenagers