Christopher Eccleston is Derek Bentley, a marginally retarded, epileptic, working-class British kid growing up in the 1940s. He's been in trouble with the authorities for much of his life. By the age of nineteen, he's more or less a member of a teen-age gang, though his father, Tom Courtenay in a solid role, and the rest of his family try to protect him from the adolescent impulses of the gang's world.
They're not benign impulses either. Britain was a nation of shopkeepers, as someone said, and there are lots of shops around to be burglarized and robbed. The gang members imitate in their dress and style the villains of the films noir they're seeing on the screen. (One imagines Tommy Udo as prima inter pares.) They dress in suits and ties, black overcoats, and black fedoras. They may carry knives and brass knuckles, and sometimes one or two of them may carry a pistol, giving them an advantage of sorts over the unarmed police.
Eccleston and his Jungian shadow, a young kid played by Paul Reynolds, are interrupted during a burglary. The police officer who intrudes manages to clap his hands on the pliant Eccleston and put him under arrest before Reynold whips out his pistol and wounds the officer in the shoulder. A horde of cops descend upon the rooftop scene because, London not being Newark, all those noisy gunshots are disturbing the public. Reynold manages, perhaps half accidentally, to shoot a constable through the forehead. Then he jumps off the roof and is captured.
That shoot out is interesting. Paul Reynolds does a fine job of projecting the exhilaration a feral kid can feel when his reptilian brain is unleashed, shooting wildly in the air, pinging bullets off his surroundings. The adrenalin rush doesn't last long but while it does, you're the monarch of all you survey. You -- how do the firing range cadre put it? -- you "command your environment." Through all this brouhaha Eccleston has been behaving like the dumb but essentially harmless kid he is. When the first officer on the scene tells Reynold to give up the gun, Eccleston shouts, "Let him have it," meaning give him the gun. When the officer is shot and helpless, Eccleston doesn't try to escape.
At the trial, that shout -- "Let him have it!" -- is interpreted by the jury as meaning, "Shoot him!" Reynolds, only sixteen years old, is given an indeterminate sentence. Eccleston, nineteen, is sentenced to hang despite the jury's verdict of "guilty but with a recommendation of mercy." It's a true story. The trial generated not just publicity but outrage at the sentence imposed on Eccleston. He was hanged apace, but the obvious miscarriage challenged the mortmain of the death penalty and led to Britain's joining the rest of the Western societies in banning capital punishment.
The film is "thoughtful" and made for adults. Eccleston is no hero. He's a disturbed and stupid kid who hangs out with people in his neighborhood, as all kids do, only these kids are kind of malignant.
I'll give an example of how this movie could have gone irretrievably wrong. It could have followed the model already established, and imitated many times, and given us an extremely detailed description of the preparation of the inmate for execution. See "Ted Bundy" for a beacon of meretriciousness. Instead, there are a few relevant scenes of Eccleston in the slams, mostly discussing his appeal with his family. The execution itself is over with in two minutes. No long parade to the gallows led by a pastor reading from the Bible. No lugubrious climbing of thirteen steps. No inquiry from the warden about any last words. No last words.
Let Him Have It
Crime / Drama / History
Let Him Have It
Crime / Drama / History
In 1950s England, slow-witted Derek Bentley falls in with a group of petty criminals led by Chris Craig, a teenager with a fondness for American gangster movies. Chris and Derek's friendship leads to their involvement in the case which would forever shake the United Kingdom's belief in capital punishment. —Scott Renshaw
Uploaded By: FREEMAN
January 03, 2022 at 02:11 AM