The British film Gangster No. 1 with it’s the two-fold portrait of the modern British gangster puts some cream on the top of the ‘tough guy’ pie baked in the oven of the British crime movie. It is interesting to compare Young Gangster/Gangster 55 to the earliest representatives of the British criminal character. In comparison to this wild and bright creature, Pinkie Brown from Brighton Rock looks amateurish and naive, Harold Shand is almost a mediocre businessman, and Jack Carter is a kind of a programmed robot.
Gangster No. 1 shows the latest period of the British criminal world and traces the roots of contemporary criminality. Handguns have already become the part of it alongside with the traditional iconographic toolkit of the gangster style: expensive clothes, speedy cars, the first-class women, and VIP bars. The modern British gangster demonstrates vicious brutality and acid sarcasm utilising important metaphoric signs of his malicious and assertive masculinity.
When one of the characters (Eddie Miller) asks who is at the door, Young Gangster answers with dangerous hilarity, “It’s the big bad wolf” . When Young Gangster comes to murder rival gang boss Lennie Taylor, he kicks the door in; Lennie utters sarcastically, “Come in”, and Young Gangster says back, “Don’t mind if I do Lennie”, shooting Lennie in the stomach. The hero’s replicas demonstrate how self-concentrated he is: “I’m Superman! ”, “King Kong! ”, “Number one! ” – these are some of his autocharacteristics.
This type of gangster is susceptible for self-mockery, although he lets nobody to laugh at his expense. When Karen makes a remark about him being “not a bad looking bloke”, Young Gangster exclaims, “Bad looking bloke? Darlin’… I’m a prince”. Gangster’s psychopathic nature juxtaposes him with the American crazies typified by Cody Jarrett from White Heat with his paranoia, delirious breakouts and a strive for promotion. Yet Gangster No. 1 lacks the tragic coda of the American gangster sagas.
Unlike Cody or the heroes of Kitano’s films, Gangster is, so to say, a metaphorical fugitive. When rival gang boss Lennie Taylor (Jamie Foreman) designed a plan to kill the former Young Gangster’s boss Freddie Mays and take over his territory, the hero learnt about it and decided to erase both Lennie and Freddie out of the criminal scene. He shot Lennie and exposed Freddie to police. In the beginning of the film, the aged Gangster is informed that Freddie is about to leave jail after thirty years of imprisonment.
The ‘skeleton in the shelf’ of treachery and murder puts Gangster in the position of a man-on-the run. The most synthetic and atypical of all the characters are the heroes of Pulp Fiction. This movie is contraposed to the rest ones for its complex methods of characterisation. Lewis (1998, p. 39) stated that “Tarantino’s characters are relentlessly caught in the strain of identity – too self-consciously, too theatrically, always too intently driven by what one character in Pulp Fiction calls ‘a moral test of oneself’”. They deny the very idea of being a type rather than an individual.
Whereas the protagonists in the other films on the list are typically associated with one main character, the white male protagonist of Pulp Fiction reveals himself through “only peripherally related assortment of white boys (Travolta’s Vince, Willis’s Butch, Tim Roth’s Pumpkin) cruising around their landscapes of interchangeable parts splattered here and there with the messes they make, and laced with their hilariously obscene yet insipid dialogue, itself the verbal equivalent of the gelatinous world they drift across” (Lewis 1998, p. 181).
One of the buddy gangsters, Jules (Samuel L. Jackson), characterized himself as being “in a transitional period” and this is the most correct description of the movie’s heroes. They are always in transition, on the run, in the unfixed state of passing through the scenes of fictional reality. The discussion of Pulp Fiction in regard to its characters could occupy a separate chapter. The summary of this extended analysis would be the following: the heroes of Tarantino’s movie are distinctive from the ones of other movies in their allusiveness and belonging to multiple contexts at one and the same time.
Concluding notes on categories of criminal’s psyche, space and dialogue The thirteen films on the list can be compared against the variable of space or fictional treatment of environment. It is hypothesised that the manner of space presentation correlates to the character’s portrayal in the crime film. In the previous subchapter the characters of the crime movies were classified within the threefold comparative framework. However, the heroes of the crime film – be they the Criminal, the Law-abider, the Fugitive, or of any other type – differentiate from the heroes of the films belonging to some other genre.
The point of distinction is the characters’ relation to the concept of ‘crime’. Leitch (2002, p. 36) argued that crime received a new meaning in cinematography: crime is [… ] a way of converting noncriminal but potentially unbearable social anxieties into entertainment by scaling down their threat from the global to the subcultural level, linking the threat to a series of charismatic heroes and villains who can encourage a strong rooting interest, and directing the audience’s concern along the comfortably generic lines of the crime film.