10 Criminally underrated British Crime Films you probably haven't seen yet - Guest Contributor Feature


Posted by Craig Grobler on Google+ On Tuesday, May 31, 2016

10 Underrated British Crime Thrillers It is no secret that there are two sub-genres of film I am particularly not fond of: football hooligan films and nasty gangster films that glamorises meaningless violence. I haven't seen the soon to be released Hooligan Legacy but I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt as it's recommended by the guys who curated this rather good list of, less well known British Crime Thrillers.

     Although it, as well as all others lists of a similar nature, it could benefit from the inclusion of Nicolas Roeg's brilliant Performance starring James Fox, Mick Jagger and Anita Pallenberg, Michael Tuchner's Battersea set Villain starring Richard Burton and Ian McShane well as Stephen Frears' The Hit starring Terence Stamp, Tim Roth and John Hurt. and a theme song from Roger Waters and Eric Clapton.

     Amongst the ten highlighted films there are a number that resonate with me including: a film I just recently re-watched - the Oliver Reed, Jill St. John, Ian McShane, Edward Woodward starrer - Sitting Target. Set in part around Clapham Junction and directed by Douglas Hickox, the man behind Zulu Dawn, Brannigan, Sky Riders and Theatre of Bloodit's interesting to watch Oliver Reed's Harry Lomat a man split between a brash and violent revenge driven convict and a man with a cracked softer side playing off Ian McShane's devilish Birdy.

     The always good Mike Hodges' Croupier, set in the glitzy world of casinos but is more about the world under it. The intense Gangster No. 1 from Paul McGuigan who amongst his films will be directing a couple of episodes of Marvel and Netflix's eagerly anticipated Luke Cage series.

     Paul Andrew Williams' outstanding London to Brighton, easily transcends its station and is possibly the most meaningful and engaging low budget crime film to come out of Britain in a good while. I also recommend his surreal horror comedy The Cottage starring Andy Serkis, Reece Shearsmith and Jennifer Ellison it's American Werewolf in London good. And of course it's brilliant to see Ben Wheatley's darkly humorous and low key crime family tale - Down Terrace with Robert Hill, Robin Hill, Michael Smiley and Tony Way on the list.

Also good to be introduced to both Hell is a City and He Who Rides a Tiger which have been added to my watchlist.



We all know about Get Carter, Snatch and Kidulthood as classic commonwealth crime capers, but what if you’ve seen all the popular titles and have an appetite for more?

To celebrate the release of violent new thriller Hooligan Legacy, here are some forgotten gangster gems for fans of ‘geezers and guns’ that fell under the radar or got lost in time …

Hell is a City (1960)
Kicking off the list we follow committed police inspector, Harry Martineau. He rightly guesses a recently escaped local criminal will head home to Manchester to pick up the spoils from his last job. Martineau soon after investigates a murder during a street robbery which seems to lead back to the same villain. Martineau discovers the criminal wasn’t working alone and becomes obsessed with tracking down the escaped killer and his gang.


     Video: Hell Is A City / Original Theatrical Trailer (1959)               

A British film for the ages that is frequently overlooked, this Maurice Procter adaptation is a true classic film noir with masterful acting from cast members Stanley Baker (Zulu) and John Crawford (The Enforcer) and was inspired by British new wave cinema of the time.


He Who Rides a Tiger (1965)
From director Charles Crichton (A Fish Called Wanda) comes the story of Peter Rayston, a man who has been in and out of prison most of his life and after being released for the eighth time, he immediately goes back to his old life, providing for his expensive tastes by executing a series of daring burglaries.

He Who Rides A Tiger Poster (ZOOM

Legal and financial hassles upset the smooth production of this crime story, but it does not show on the screen with great performances from Judi Dench (James Bond) Tom Bell (The Krays) and based on the real life cat burglar, Peter Scott.


Sitting Target (1972)
Based on the 1970 Laurence Henderson novel of the same name, this drama focuses on jealous convict, Harry Lomart, as he learns that his wife has been impregnated by another.

He is so enraged that he busts out of prison with fellow inmate, Birdy Williams, and the two set out to find and kill her, taking out anyone who stands in their way.

     Video: Sitting Target (1972) Official Trailer - Oliver Reed, Ian McShane Action Movie HD               

Sitting Target is not only a great adaptation but a fantastic piece in its own right. The movie also filmed its prison sequences in the same abandoned penitentiary used in The Italian Job (the Kilmainham Jail). Starring Jill St. John (Diamonds Are Forever), Ian McShane (Sexy Beast) and the late, great Oliver Reed (Gladiator, Oliver!).


Croupier (1998)
From the man behind Get Carter, Mike Hodges shows that even late into his career he can still deliver a dark, complex and compelling thriller. Set around London's gambling world, the story follows a struggling writer, Jack Manfred, who takes a job as a croupier to support his art. Knowing the dangers of the cards, he is adamant about remaining a professional outsider, but the temptations of the game inevitably swallow him deeper than he could have

     Video: Croupier (1999) | Trailer | Film4               

Starring Alex Kingston (Doctor Who) and Clive Owen (The Bourne Identity) in his breakout role, Croupier is reminiscent of the great British crime dramas from years before, yet still manages to be highly original. Universally adored by critics and currently holding 98% positive on rotten tomatoes, this film as an absolute must see.


Gangster No. 1 (2000)
Filmmaker Paul McGuigan (Lucky Number Slevin) chronicles the rise and fall of a prominent and particularly ruthless English gangster, starting as a young, ambitious apprentice in the 1960’s thro as he learns the secrets of the trade.

     Video: Gangster No. 1 (2000) | Trailer | Film4               

Universally praised by critics for its style and great performances from Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange), Paul Bettany (Avengers 2: Age of Ultron) and David Thewlis (War Horse). Gangster No 1 is a violent and exhilarating look on the English gangster scene, spanning through several decades and with characters inspired by real life mobsters.


Shiner (2000)
Also from the turn of the millennium we have a film by John Irvin (The Dogs of War) and starring Michael Cane (The Italian Job) and Martin Landau (Ed Wood). The story follows Billy "Shiner" Simpson (Caine) a boxing promoter who is banned from legitimate fights until he finds great promise in his son Eddie. However, when the night of the fight sees Eddie killed, Simpson suspects rival Frank Spedding (Landau) and seeks revenge, only to grow mad as his suspicions draw closer to home.

     Video: SHINER - Trailer               

With high acclaim for Caine’s acting and also featuring Frances Barber (Mr Holmes) and Andy Serkis (King Kong), Shiner is a ferocious dramatic piece about revenge, redemption.


London to Brighton (2006)
It's 3:07AM and two girls burst into a rundown toilet, one in ripped clothing crying her eyes out and the other tending to her bruised face that’s starting to swell. A man lies in his bathroom bleeding to death and is later found by his son, who wants answers. The two girls must spend the next 24 hours trying to flee London, on the run from violent men from their past.

     Video: London To Brighton Film Trailer               

Starring Lorraine Stanley (Made in Dagenham), Georgia Groome (Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging) and Sam Spruell (Legend) and dealing with themes of runaway youth and child prostitution, this is an extremely hard-hitting drama riddled with tension and grit.


The Escapist (2008)
This well received, prison break movie, directed by Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) centres around Frank Perry, an institutionalised convict, 14 years into a life sentence without parole. When his estranged daughter falls ill, he is determined to make peace with her before it’s too late. He develops an ingenious escape plan, and recruits a dysfunctional band of misfits with unique skills, all united by a desire to escape their hell hole of an existence.

     Video: The Escapist (2008) trailer               

With a stellar English cast comprising of Brian Cox (Troy), Damian Lewis (Homeland), Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love), Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones) and Dominic Cooper (Captain America: The First Avenger), this surprisingly smart tale of subterfuge was inspired by “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” and, like Sitting Target, It was also shot at the abandoned Kilmainham Jail.


Down Terrace (2008)
Starring such names as Robin Hill (The Kill List), Julia Deakin (Hot Fuzz) and Michael Smiley (The Worlds End), this modern British triumph tells the story of a father and son (Hill) recently released from prison and desperately seek to unmask the police informant within their midst, who threatens to take down their business. As a result, a tale of recrimination, betrayal and murder ensues.

     Video: Down Terrace HD Trailer               

Amazingly this gem did not perform well at the box office, earning just short of £7,000, but despite the lack of interest from viewers, it has been praised by critics who commend director Ben Wheatly (Sightseers) for his orchestration of the piece. Any aspiring filmmaker will immediately appreciate the quality of this movie, which was shot with only £21,000 and took just 8 days to film!

Hooligan Legacy Poster
Hooligan Legacy Poster [ZOOM]  
Hooligan Legacy (2016)
Finishing the list is a new hidden gem in the British gangster genre. Get ready for a visceral story of friendship, betrayal and revenge when four men, Ronnie, Jimmy, Jack and Chris – no strangers to unlawful transgressions – execute a daring football stadium robbery. Their dynamic soon turns sour when the leader of the group becomes paranoid and begins to self- destruct. Years later and after a stint in prison, Ronnie is out for revenge, looking for the old friend that took the years away from him.

     Video: Hooligan Legacy trailer (2016) [HD]               

Starring Kris Johnson (Who Needs Enemies?) and Terri Dwyer (Hollyoaks, Grange Hill), this gritty revenge flick is sure to get your blood pumping on a roller-coaster of action, violence and retribution.

Precision Pictures Presents Hooligan Legacy on Digital HD 27th May & DVD


The Establishing Shot: 10 CRIMINALLY UNDERRATED BRITISH CRIME FILMS YOU PROBABLY HAVEN'T SEEN YET - GUEST CONTRIBUTOR FEATURE

10 Underrated British Crime Thrillers
Craig is a retired superhero, an obsessive hobbyist, comics fan, gadget lover & flâneur who knows an unhealthy amount about Ian Fleming's James Bond. When not watching or making films he takes pictures, eats, drinks, dives, tries to connect to nature whilst mentally storyboarding the greatest film ever made. He also  & sometimes utilises owl-themed gadgets to fight crime.  A list of his 133 favourite films can be found hereIf you would still like to contact Craig please use any of the buttons below: 
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