2004 Certificate: 15

Synopsis

Daniel Craig's super-slick coke dealer gets in over his head after he's "invited" to help veteran gangster Kenneth Cranham out of a spot of bother. Just when you thought Brit gangster flicks were passed their sell-by date... along comes this cracking caper from Guy "Lock, Stock" Ritchie's old mucker Matthew Vaughn. Look out for Michael Gambon as a ruthless king pin with a taste for opera.

Director

  • Matthew Vaughn

Cast

  • Colm Meaney

  • Sienna Miller

  • Michael Gambon

  • Daniel Craig

  • Kenneth Cranham

Review

The dread phrase 'British gangster movie' has been synonymous with public school boys spouting mockney ever since Guy Ritchie established the scrawny breed.

Lacking in imagination, fond of clichés and labyrinthine plotting that sagged under its own weight, the movies couldn't be more wrong if they tried.

And then, lawks a-mercy, along comes this. Matthew Vaughn, who produced Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Snatch, takes to the director's chair with sparkling results.

The usual suspects - irritating dodgy East End geezers planning the long con - are present and correct... but this time they're periphery characters.

In this version, the action revolves around Daniel Craig's glossy slicker, who assures us he's not a drug dealer "but a businessman whose main commodity happens to be cocaine."

Running a tight but highly profitable outfit behind the shield of a respectable letting agency, he doesn't like guns and chooses his accomplices with care.

Just as he's thinking about quitting when he's (a long way) ahead, old school criminal boss Jimmy Price (Cranham) asks him to lunch...and a couple of favours.

For a first-time director Vaughn keeps the action ticking over like an idling Rolls Royce, taking care to flesh out characters you believe in and often like.

He's helped by Craig, who gives a strong yet subtle performance as the control freak watching helplessly as events spin out of control.

There are also classy outings from veterans like Cranham and Michael Gambon as a ruthlessly manipulative mobster with a weakness for opera.

There's a lot going on - wide boy Essex boys flogging pills, the missing daughter of a criminal kingpin and even Serbian hit men - but the narrative thread is never overstretched.

Other plusses include a cool electronic soundtrack punctuated by the odd classic from XTC or Duran Duran neatly tailored to the action.

At last, a Brit gangster caper that's both clinical and cool. Grab yourself a slice.

Tim Evans