Original Gangster review – hitman thuggery misfires

Original? Nah. You could put this grim, unimaginative London crime drama under a microscope and still not find the teensiest speck of originality. It’s a nasty little film, shallow and badly acted, with a queasy macho streak – like a Guy Ritchie, only without the subtlety or attention to female characters.

Original Gangster follows the rise of a hitman and begins with his backstory. As a 10-or-so-year-old, Castor (Badger Skelton) is spared death by Milo (Ian Reddington), a thug who murders his parents. For the next decade, orphaned Castor lives rough in London parks, eating cold beans out of the tin and honing his mugging skills; this is a film where men commit violence in swaggering slo-mo, music blaring. The illiterate voiceover feels like a parody: “The street was a money-hungry whore who demanded paying before providing me with her sweet pussy.” Nice.

Skip ahead a decade, and Castor (played by Alex Mills with the charisma of a toaster), runs into Milo again. Milo is now a successful drug dealer who introduces Castor to American crime kingpin Jean-Baptiste (a career low from Steve Guttenberg). Milo also invites Castor round for dinner at his gaff, where we see him humiliate and physically assault his much younger wife (Isabele De Rosa).

The film has a serious woman problem. Its female characters are either dead and saintly, or nags who get hit by men. In one scene, Castor is drinking alone in a graveyard when a young woman angrily tells him to move on. (Which completely misjudges the response of most women to being alone in a space with a lairy drunk man twice her size). When Castor calls her “darling” she rants at him: “Do you know nothing about the #MeToo movement, you misogynist pig?” So he thumps her. Thirty minutes later, the script wants you to root for him as love interest to Milo’s wife, herself a victim of violence. Do me a favour.

Original Gangster is released on 5 April on digital platforms.

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