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Film / Let Him Have It

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Let Him Have It is a 1991 British drama directed by Peter Medak, based on the true story of Derek Bentley.

Derek Bentley (Christopher Eccleston) is an illiterate, epileptic, mentally disabled young adult who falls into a gang led by a 16 year old student, Christopher Craig (Paul Reynolds). While breaking into a warehouse, Craig shoots and kills a police officer, PC Sidney Miles, resulting in Britain's most controversial court case.


Let Him Have It shows examples of the following tropes:

  • Acquitted Too Late: Bentley received a pardon in 1998, decades after his execution, seven years after the movie was made and one year after his sister Iris' death.
  • Ambiguous Syntax: Derek shouting "Let him have it". To this day, it is unclear if he meant it literally, as in "surrender the gun" (as argued by his defense) or figuratively, as in "shoot him" (as argued by the prosecution).
  • Black Cap of Death: The judge puts on the customary black cap before sentencing Derek to hang.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Bentley is sentenced to hang for PC Miles' murder, despite being arrested by then, while the actual gunman, Craig, spent a total of ten years in prison due to being a minor.
  • Felony Murder: "Joint enterprise" in Britain. Bentley is charged with murder due to being the only adult around, despite being under arrest and in custody when the shots were fired. The uproar this caused ultimately ended the practise of joint enterprise.
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  • Flare Gun: A student hands in a brass Webley flare gun when Craig's teacher demands all his students place their guns on his desk. The teacher knowledgeably identifies it as being manufactured by the Wolseley Car Company.
  • Hanging Judge: The cruel judge who sentenced Derek to death, despite him not being a killer, being mentally challenged, and being in custody at the time the death occurred.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: The defense argues that, as Craig had sawed off his revolver's barrel to about three inches, leaving a large jag that would send any bullet flying off randomly and having to make do with whatever ammo he could find and fit in the chambers, accuracy would be next to impossible, but it would be possible to hit something he wasn't aiming for, and thus PC Miles' death should be ruled manslaughter.
  • Kangaroo Court: Despite all the lavish trappings and procedures of Her Majesty's Court, the outcome isn't in doubt by the time Derek takes the stand.
  • Karma Houdini: The prosecutor who charged Derek with 1st degree murder, the jury who convicted him, and the judge who sentenced him to death.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Midway through the movie, Vincent brags about a robbery that he and Chris committed. He even carries around the newspaper clipping about the crime. Towards the end of the movie it is revealed that the police did finally arrest him and sent him to prison for this stickup.
  • Loophole Abuse: Derek was an accomplice in the break-in and subsequent shooting and was actually in custody during the latter, but because he was an adult and the actual gunman was a minor, Derek gets sentenced to hang due to Felony Murder.
  • Male Gaze: Stella climbs a ladder to both get a record for Iris and to show off to Derek. Both Derek and the camera make note of Stella's curvy buttocks.
  • Manchild:
    • Derek, very much so.
    • Chris may be considered a juvenile version of this trope. He idolizes American Gangster movies, tries to affect a tough hood persona, but his room is filled with children's toys.
  • Most Definitely Not a Villain: Vincent manages to deceive The Bentleys by shedding his hoodlum threads and affecting a persona of a dorky teen friend of Derek's. He even manages to charm Mr. Bentley who invites "Monty" to come around again sometime.
  • Misplaced Retribution: Derek is hanged while the actual murderer gets ten years, despite being in police custody when the shooting occurred.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Derek, when he realizes the cops have arrived and that they will be probably be caught.
    • Mr. and Mrs. Bentley, when they find out the Home Secretary posted the execution date, despite all the public backlash. They're going through with this, no matter what.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Niven Craig, despite being a bloodthirsty hood, takes an avuncular liking to Derek, and even gives him his own jacket.
    • Pierrepoint kindly reassures Derek before leading him to the scaffold. The warder also gives Derek a friendly wink.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better:
    • Craig carries a Colt New Service in .455 Webley, which he modified by cutting down the barrel to about three inches. He trades a Colt Detective Special, of which he claims to have three, to another student for a Luger.
    • Detective Sergeant Fairfax is seen retrieving a Smith and Wesson Second Model Hand Ejector when the shooting starts. Other constables are issued Enfield No. 2 revolvers before responding to the shooting. In real life, the London Metropolitan Police used a .32 automatic at the time (presumably the revolvers were chosen because they were easier to procure and were more reliable with blanks).
  • Title Drop: Derek's arrest went From Bad to Worse (and got him accused of being a Cop Killer) because he yelled out to Craig "let him (the detective approaching you) have it!" when the cops were ordering the latter to surrender his weapon and he decided to open fire. The subsequent courtroom drama has all sides arguing over what meaning Derek meant.
  • Universal Ammo: Craig is unable to find any .455 Webley rounds for his Colt New Service, so he instead forces or files down various .45 and .41 ammo. He also says "Tommy gun ammo" (.45 ACP) will work.note  When he trades another revolver for a Luger, he's advised he can force ".38s" into it in lieu of 9mm (presumably .38 S&W, also called .38/200 and .380 Mk I, as .38 Special is far too long), which he's apparently able to do and fires a round into the ceiling.
  • The Vamp: Stella, to an extent. While she doesn't do anything to directly corrupt Derek, he is smitten and sees the hoodlum life as a way to get access to her (or girls like her).
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The film ends with a note saying Derek's sister Iris was still fighting for an acquittal. She died six years after the film was made. One year after that, Derek's sentence was overturned and he was pardoned.


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