Since Britain Is Only London
, London Gangsters are the British criminals we know best.
The London Gangster is a hard man in a sharp suit with a fondness for Cluster F Bombs
and Country Matters
. He'll tend to prefer roughing people up with his bare hands to using guns (gun control being very strict in the UK), but Cold-Blooded Torture
isn't at all out of the question and the really
nasty ones in fiction have a tendency to be Knife Nuts
. He speaks in a working class East London, Cockney or South London accent, and his dense slang may feature a little Yiddish note
of a London Gang is usually a Shout-Out
to the Kray twins (see page image), a pair of famous British gangsters in the 50s
. He's a Self-Made Man
and/or Nouveau Riche
who's fiercely proud of having worked his way up from the gutter — even if that "work" involved scaring other people into giving him money. He's charismatic and generous
when you're on his good side and a terrifying psychopath
when you aren't.
Occasionally a particularly transparent Shout-Out
to the Krays will go as far as featuring tropes from their lives, like Big Bad Duumvirate
, Siblings in Crime
, Creepy Twins
, Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas
. As you might have gathered, the Kray twins are iconic in the UK — Britain's answer to Al Capone
We almost never see gangsters from Oop North
, despite Manchester and Liverpool
having considerable levels of organised crime in real life. The Yardies
, however (Afro-Caribbean gangs, originally from Jamaica) are bound to get a mention.
- The works of Guy Ritchie are overflowing with London Gangsters. Often they have Kray-clones as the Big Bad, such as Brick Top in Snatch, Hatchet Harry in Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels (which does at least include Scouse burglars and upper-class drug dealers as well), and Bald of Evil hard man "Miami Vice" in spinoff series Lock Stock.
- Bob Hoskins as Harold Shand in The Long Good Friday. He actually got a letter of congratulations from Ronnie Kray for his portrayal.
- Michael Caine in Get Carter plays a London Gangster who returns home Oop North for a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. The film is slightly atypical for showing English organized crime outside of London, but the locals are clearly no match for Jack Carter.
- Michael Caine in Mona Lisa.
- The real life brothers Martin and Gary Kemp of Spandau Ballet portrayed the infamous doppelgangsters in perhaps their most famous biopic, The Krays.
- Ralph Fiennes plays a foul-mouthed London Gangster in In Bruges. Interestingly, his two subordinates are Irish.
- Many characters in Layer Cake, with the notable exception of Daniel Craig's character, who takes a lot of crap for not being as "manly" as the rest of them.
- Gary Oldman (and several others) in The Firm, about rival football firms (semi-organised gangs of Football Hooligans).
- This character is Ray Winstone's bread and butter:
- Vic Dakin in Villain.
- Much of the cast of Gangster No. 1.
- The main characters of Nuns On The Run want to leave their gang after their new boss turns out to be too much like this.
- Despite being an arty hallucinogenic Mind Screw, Performance has been praised as a very realistic depiction of the London Gangster at work. Some of the minor parts were allegedly played by the real thing. (The main gangster character was played by James Fox, very Against Type.)
- Fanty and Mingo, the twin smugglers from the beginning of Serenity.
- 'The Firm' in Eastenders was based on this, and directly named after the Krays' gang. EastEnders also features Tough Cockney Twins Phil and Grant Mitchell, (although they aren't affiliated with the proper gangsters) as well as the more obviously Kray-namesaked Ronnie and Roxy Mitchell.
- The Piranha brothers from Monty Python's Flying Circus, who are a deliberate spoof (with surprisingly little exaggeration) of the Kray twins.
- A regular feature of The Sweeney.
- "Genial" Harry Grout from Porridge
- On The Bill, set as it is in an East London police station, you can't throw a truncheon without hitting a London Gangster. One episode from 1995, "Mitigating Circumstances", featured Ray Winstone playing the London Gangster of the episode.
- Most of the characters in Macbeth On The Estate, a modernisation of Macbeth into a gangster story with most of the original script. In particular, Duncan, a gang boss played by Mr Winstone himself.
- The Driscoll Brothers in Only Fools and Horses and The Green Green Grass.
- Comedy Duo Hale and Pace's "Da Management".
- Badger from Firefly is a London Gangster IN SPACE! Complete with East London accent, bowler hat and dreadlocky Yardies. More of a cheeky Cockney sparrow than the usual scary psychopath, though.
- In Leverage, one of Sophie's recurring personae is a London Gangster; admittedly, a female version.
- The second series of ITV drama Whitechapel is all about London Gangsters as the apparent sons of Ronnie Kray, Jimmy and Johnny, attempt to take over the criminal underworld.
- Saturday Night Live: Don' You Go Rounin' Roun to Re Ro' is a can't-miss London gangster film, if you like movies you cannot understand.
- Featured occasionally in Hustle, they are often portrayed as bumbling, such as Dexter Gold, the crooked gold-merchant who despite being referred to as "one of The Chaps", is utterly unthreatening, incompetent and even sets himself up for a second con. Typically, the truly brutal psycho-killers are foreigners. The earlier seasons had the more traditional East End villains who despite appearances of being rich and respectable, used brutal violence to get where they are. The cast however do go out of their way to avoid being on the receiving end of even the less threatening gangsters radars.
- The 8th CHERUB book, Mad Dogs featured this nearly exactly. The Afro-Caribbean gang (primarily from Jamaica) called "The Slasher Boys" fighting a gang war against the titular Mad Dogs (fronted by a Football Club).
- Most of the novels of Martina Cole.
- Harry Stark in Jake Arnott's The Long Firm.
- A family of these show up as allies of Nate Garrett in the first book of the The Hellequin Chronicles, with the father being a Pint-Sized Powerhouse who plays the traditional Affably Evil variant to the hilt, while his wife is equally friendly and, when required to be, terrifying.
- These show up whenever someone from Time Scout goes downtime to Victorian London.
- Joe Spork, the protagonist of Nick Harkaway's novel Angelmaker is the son of Mathew “Tommy Gun” Spork, an infamous one of these. Early in the novel, Joe muses about the likelihood of there being makeshift graves and pig farms that his father had a hand in.
- The BBC Radio 4 serial G.F. Newman's The Corrupted is set in the 1950s, as control of London gangland is moving from Billy Hill to the Krays and Richardsons. The protagonist's Hair-Trigger Tempered uncle moves from failed boxer, to Hill's heavy, to "protecting" his own patch from the Krays.
- The stereotypical mob family in Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, creatively named "The Family". Though, this could be a subversion, since they act more like an Italian mafioso family than a British one.
- Grand Theft Auto: London 1969 is filled with these types, including Albert and Archie Crisp, a suspiciously familiar Big Bad Duumvirate of Cockney twins.
- The Getaway series features plenty of these, as well as The Yardies and the triads. The PSP-exclusive spin-off Gangs of London along with the traditional London gangsters, also contains some more exotic examples for a London setting, including Italian, Turkish, Russian and Chinese gangs.
- In Batman: Arkham City, the Penguin has been re-imagined as a Guy-Ritchie-ish English gangster with a thick East End accent and brutal means of enforcement. If you read his backstory you will learn that he comes from a prominent American family, but was sent to England for his education. Unfortunately he preferred hanging out with the rough crowd in seedy parts of the town over school.
- Devin Mallory in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, one of the senior members of the Thieves Guild.
- Terrence of KateModern, in his earlier 'gangster' persona.