I appreciate that you spent more time on your post than you did actually watching the movie, and I can dig that its not your thing, but I have a hard time getting around the fact that you are capping on a movie you haven’t actually watched.
It is very straightforward, which for my taste is rather the problem. There is no significant plot, and the character study consists merely of, yes, the main character is an ambitious thug! I can only take so much of that being pounded into my skull.
Let me spare you being forced to watch a couple other “straightforward” movies.
Leaving Las Vegas - Guy drinks himself to death
Scarface - Guy does a lot of coke. A lot of it.
Lawrence of Arabia - Guy really likes the desert. Then maybe or maybe not enjoys buggery.
Master and Commander - Sailing
PI - Guy gets headaches
Bad Lieutenant - Guy is seriously a bad Lieutenant.
Gangster’s actions may not be nuanced, but how he goes about them most certainly are. Watch the scene with Saffron Barrows, where she tells him she is marrying Freddie for instance. I appreciated the how the movie does not insult the audience by throwing in “suprise” plot twists and is able to show Gangster’s infatuation with Freddie without making it overtly sexual.
Plus whole segments just struck me as silly. Right off the bat for example, in the opening scene when he goes to take a leak. Eh? Why the fuck can’t he avoid pissing on his shoes? I mean, it’s cute and all to “break the 4th wall”, but there’s got to be a better point to such a gimmick for it to work.
To be fair - he pissed in his champaign glass - not his shoes.
Maybe you missed the point. He can deny it all day long, but he is a Tapir. He’s mean to the attendent, his “friends” don’t like him. And then he starts fucking with the viewer by pretending to drink piss. Silly maybe, but effective.
Or the tediously predictable scene where he butchers his buddy with his “favorite axe” – or so I presume, because that’s when I couldn’t take it any longer.
Really? To anybody who has actually seen the movie, the moment he is actually making the decision to kill Roland (though its hard to know who you mean - he doesn’t kill Eddie for instance - that’s the guy he showed his “favorite axe” to - nor does he kill Freddie Mays, but, again, since you didn’t watch the movie and are critiqeing a movie you made up, its hard to know who you mean) is one of the most striking moments of the movie. As is the lead up to him actually killing Lennie Taylor.
Anyway, contrast this with something like The Godfather or Once Upon a Time in America, where interesting shit actually happens, or practically any other movie about criminals for that matter. One can make an interesting and well acted character study, yet still leave room for a plot.
I would offer any Guy Ritchie movie (Lox Stock maybe excepted, I liked it at the time) as counter. A whole bunch of stuff happens in those movies. They are terrible to the point of unwatchable. I double butt hanging hippy dog dare you to watch Revolver.
And Once Upon a Time and *Godfather(s) are muther humping Epics. G#1 is much smaller in scope, budget and more focused. The story is simple, but not simplistic.
What it is, is a very watchable movie with more than a few unique moments. Bettany’s performance, McDowell’s VO, the swinging London setting, great music (I now own an Englebert Humperdink’s Greatest Hits so I can listen to 10 Guitars anytime I want…and Quando Quando Quando of course…a Sweet song that isn’t Bar Room Blitz), and McGugian’s interesting (and sometimes daring) directing choices. Not for nothing, but the clothes, cars and apartments are a lot of fun.
Its not a total sucess, McDowell’s portion in particular, and the ending feels unsatisfying. Its also got some pretty disturbing violence (though, as I mentioned you don’t actually see a lot of it, but are a victim of it). But I’d still recommend this movie to anyone who is interested in film, and in particular crime films. Bettany’s performance in particular is amazing. It looks like Hollywood has yet to see him as the lead in a film, instead putting him in supporting roles (Master and Commander, Da Vinci Code ect) so this might be the best vehicle to really appreciate his talent.
*Vito’s rag to riches story in Godfather II is also very straightforward.