Crime Movies Filmed in London
For centuries, London has had a rich history of crime which has been heavily documented in just about every medium.
Many movies have taken gritty inspiration from London’s criminal underworld, and what better way to portray the murky goings-on than capturing the city in person? In this piece, we’re taking a look at some crime movies set and filmed on location in London.
John Wayne plays Chicago-based detective Jim Brannigan, tasked with recovering American crime-lord, Ben larkin (John Vernon), who is being held in London. Before Wayne can successfully extract his target, Larkin is kidnapped, leaving it to Wayne to track him down.
Brannigan includes many famous landmarks throughout, with a climactic car chase ending with a dramatic jump across an open Tower Bridge.
The Long Good Friday (1980)
Helen Mirren stars alongside Bob Hoskins in this hard-hitting gangster flick about criminal kingpin Harold Shand (Hoskins) who aims to cut a deal with an American mafia organisation. Embroiled in the social climate of the time, the movie follows Shand as he tries to achieve his goal of redeveloping the London Dockyards. Unfortunately for Shand, a series of bombings threatens his prospective plans and alliances, and Shand scrambles to prevent things from collapsing around him.
The Long Good Friday uses various London locales, including Paddington Station, the Strand’s Savoy Hotel and St. Katharine’s Dock – where Shand’s imposing yacht is moored.
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
Guy Ritchie’s directorial debut is a relentless deep-dive into the murky London underworld, and arguably remains the peak of the London crime genre.
Two Smoking Barrels, also the debut film for Vinnie Jones and Jason Statham, follows a group of criminals trying to repay a debt to a local London mobster after losing a corrupt card game.
A violent crime caper, Two Smoking Barrels portrays the grimy underbelly of London with stark style, as the low-time gang try to claw their way back up from the hole they’ve dug themselves into.
Ritchie attempted to recapture the magic of Two Smoking Barrels only two years later with Snatch. The film saw Vinnie Jones and Jason Statham return for only their second movie roles. Brad Pitt also joined to play a part in the ensemble cast, in a movie that shares many similar elements with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Most notably, of course, is the setting.
The seedy London underworld is the focus once more in a complex, intertwining plot featuring heists, scams and Ritchie’s trademark mix of gritty style, violence and dark humour.
Sexy Beast (2000)
Ex safecracker Gary ‘Gal’ Dove (Ray Winstone), enjoying his retirement in his Spanish villa, is repeatedly headhunted by the ruthless Don Logan (Ben Kingsley) to take part in a major London heist. Gal is determined not to comply, which angers Logan and sparks a violent confrontation.
Kingsley won an Oscar for his supporting role, and the film itself earned its place amongst some of Britain’s best films, offering an alternate look into the goings-on of high-powered London mobsters.
Layer Cake (2004)
Daniel Craig plays an unnamed cocaine supplier (credited as ‘XXXXX’) who is planning to retire from the criminal life. Before he can pull himself away, Craig is handed two jobs which end up involving him in a series of double-crosses, plunging him further into London’s criminal enterprise than he ever wanted to go.
Layer Cake, based on the 2000 novel of the same name, deals with a savvy main character who tries to keep himself clear of the dirtier end of the business, and uses his legitimate fronts to keep himself in the clear as much as possible. But as is expected with the London underworld, not even XXXXX can avoid the bloodshed for long.
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