When you’re looking for a good gangster film or thrilling movie, then “Original Gangster” sounds highly intriguing. You might get the British version of “The Godfather” or a modern take on “Goodfellas”, which would probably be successful. Sadly, this latest film from writer/director Savvas D. Michael (“Red Devil”, “Smoking Guns”) doesn’t fully live up to its name and potential.
“Original Gangster” opens with gunfire, the in blood-covered young boy Castor (Badger Skelton) and his murdered parents. Tied to a chair, Castor counts down his last seconds when hitman Milo (Ian Reddington) points the gun at him. Then, the trigger goes off multiple times. We could leave it there as it would be the perfect story of a thrilling short movie, but that’s not how “Original Gangster” goes. Instead of firing at Castor, Milo saves his life by shooting down the other baddies in the room.
Many years later, Castor (Alex Mills) learned how to live independently on the street, by committing multiple crimes. It doesn’t take long before he goes for the big crimes and that involves crossing with the wrong people. Castor is again looking down at the end of a barrel. How will it end this time: with a bullet in his head or with the helping hand of a notorious saviour?
From the start, it becomes clear that “Original Gangster” is an independent movie made with a low budget. However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have anything to offer. While the small production budget created some flaws, it also ensured that “Original Gangster” stood its ground on some levels.
Writer/director Michael is no stranger to gangster movies, and with this movie, he creates something he clearly loves. Sadly, it seems that he forgot to fill the movie with punch and energy as it all starts off too slow. During the first part, you’re wondering if and when the tempo will increase. It’s only halfway through the film, you get a glimpse of what “Original Gangster” could have been, but that might have come too late.
Even more so because the characters can’t keep you fully on your toes. We see Skelton (“LOVE”, “Two for Joy“) as the young Castor for only a few minutes, but he certainly makes an emotional impact. Mills (“It Came from the Desert“, “Burning Men“) and his striking London’s accent have the same effect, but due to this movie’s slow pace, it doesn’t last. What does last is the incredible chemistry between him and Reddington (“Invasion Planet Earth“, “Red Devil”). While both actors and characters are the total opposite, when they come together, they create wonderfulness. Not only because of Mills’ talent and charms but also the clever and witty performance from Reddington. Again, this chemistry could have been heightened if the movie was sped up.
What excels in “Original Gangster” is, without a doubt, the work of the production and post-production teams. Even with a tiny fraction of the normal production amount, they certainly know how to make a beautifully shot movie. Whether it’s shooting the violent scenes in a remote drugs bunker or the emotional ones in gorgeously looking London, it all seems great. If you add the very eclectic soundtrack (a combination of classical music, country music, drum & bass, rock music and everything in between), you get a solid frame for a good film.
Yes, “Original Gangster” is lengthy and incredibly slow at the beginning; it still turns out to be an enjoyable film. If you love gangster movies, then you will like this one because of the violent story, convincing cinematography and swell performances. If you’re not into that genre, then “Original Gangster” isn’t the proper introduction to gangster films.
“Original Gangster” is out now on DVD and digital downloads in the U.K.