A disgruntled veteran recruits a group of disgraced colleagues to perform a bank robbery with military precision.A disgruntled veteran recruits a group of disgraced colleagues to perform a bank robbery with military precision.A disgruntled veteran recruits a group of disgraced colleagues to perform a bank robbery with military precision.
That this film has been reviewed as a comedy demonstrates, once again, that British and American are two cultures disguised by a common language. The humour here, of that characteristically British sardonic kind, is incidental to a drama of frustration, disappointment and inadequacy. The humour is just the way the British speak.
The clever and low key "raid" on the army training centre is finely done. So much so that it overshadows the robbery itself and therefore slightly unbalances the action.
This is one of those films, craftsmanlike and enjoyable, yet not desperately exciting, that finds its greatest value precisely in being a period piece. The League of Gentleman is a fascinating social document. Made in 1959, it catches the moment in British history when, as its Empire dissolved, the social infrastructure that supported it and that had made Colonel Hyde what he had been, also disintegrated. This aspect could almost have been deliberate, explaining the very long opening sequence (another unbalancing factor) that introduces us to the seven main characters. There are shockingly frank moments: the honourable man with the overtly promiscuous wife; the gigolo; the religious fraudster (or pervert - the message is obscured); another of the heroes an "other man", a homosexual; the pressure of life in a small house with a loud television set. So, too, the casualness with which machine guns are used in a robbery by men trained in the code of gentlemen. The dull and seedy presentation of Hyde's home and base, large but far from grand, is further evidence of the decline of his class. So, too, a robbery that was intended as a hymn to the effectiveness of military planning, brought to naught by one stupid mistake and a small boy.
Yet this is not a sententious film, their is no preaching, none of that British nostalgia for the old ways, but almost a respect for the robbers and a recognition that life had to become more ruthless as a stiff society began to flex. How it was elsewhere, I do not know, but this watchable film will show anyone what was happening in Britain just before the Sixties began to swing.
- May 10, 2001