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Living with Crime

jclarke | Friday March 22, 2013

Categories: A Level, EDUQAS A Level, EDUQAS AS, Analysis, Film Analysis, Film History, Cinema in Context, Film Industry, Film Distribution, Production Companies, Films & Case Studies, Non-Hollywood Films, London to Brighton, Sweet Sixteen, Genres & Case Studies, British Film, Crime, Independent, Social Realism, Thriller, Hot Entries, Key Concepts, Audience, Film Language, Representation

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Crime and cinema have a longstanding relationship.

Going right back to early cinema one of the landmark silent films was The Great Train Robbery (1903). There is a shot in that film which is overtly referenced as the last shot that we see in the American crime film GoodFellas (1990).

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However, whereas we might argue that the criminal life that’s represented in the Hollywood-produced GoodFellas is somewhat glamourised and told in an overtly artificial way (think of how music is used and, for example, the very elaborate camera moves), the British films that we will consider here could not be more different in their approach to that particular Hollywood-financed film. Again, we are reminded of the need to understand something of a given film’s production context in order to engage with its text.

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Both London to Brighton (2006) and Sweet Sixteen (2002) illustrate, and dramatise, some of the pressures that might play their part in why young people become involved with crime.

Certainly, a number of British crime films take a kind of serious-minded approach to the subject, from Get Carter to The Long Good Friday, although both of these are thrillers that do not feature young protagonists. Crime has also been treated with a comic sensibility as seen in the examples of The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) and more recently Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998).

Usually urban in setting, most crime films in British cinema tend to be set in and around London although Get Carter is set in the north east. The film scholar Philip Kemp has written of crime and film, and more specifically of gangsters in film that ‘Recent publicity surrounding urban youth crime and black-on-black violence has been reflected in a number of films, including Bullet Boy (2004), with Ashley Walters (of gangsta rap-inspired collective So Solid Crew) as the young ex-prisoner trying to...


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