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Film / The Criminal

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The Criminal is a 1960 British drama film produced by Nat Cohen and directed by Joseph Losey, starring Stanley Baker, Sam Wanamaker and Jill Bennett.

Johnny Bannion is a legendary figure in a British prison who will soon be up for parole. His warder, the sadistic Barrows, tries his best to provoke Bannion into committing an indiscretion to keep him inside, which the arrival of stoolpigeon Kelly to his block hopes will be the catalyst. Bannion merely arranges for Kelly to get his punishment by other hands and keeps his hands clean for when he gets out. Once he does, he intends to pull off a heist on a racecourse, but underworld bigwigs get to hear of it and want their cut. Bannion buries the loot but is caught soon after and sent back inside, where he refuses to disclose the location of the loot, prepared to bide his time in prison before picking up his nest egg on release. However, his enemies kidnap his girl and use her as leverage to get him to want to escape and thus lead them to the loot.

Tropes used in The Criminal include:

  • Briefcase Full of Money: Johnny buries the suitcase full of money from the racecourse robbery in an empty field. This because the MacGuffin driving the action in the second half of the film.
  • Cacophony Cover Up: The prisoners in Wing B create a deafening racket to cover up the sound of Clobber's assault of Kelly.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: After Kelly is thrashed from his ankles to his neck, Kelly tells the prison doctor that he fell down the stairs.
  • Driven to Suicide: When Pauly is caught with a Sinister Shiv (which might have been planted on him), he snaps and throws himself off the gallery. This is the event that triggers the Prison Riot.
  • Everybody Smokes: The film is about working class British criminals, with half the action taking place in prison, so almost everyone smokes. The opening scene is of three convicts playing poker for cigarettes.
  • Getaway Driver: Quantock is recruited as wheelman for the racetrack robbery. He is a cocky young bastard, but Bannion has to admit he does know how to handle a car.
  • Handy Cuffs: Johnny is shackled with his hands in front of him when he is being transported in the prison van (presumably because he was going to be seated for a long time). This allows him to overpower the warder when the van is forced off the road.
  • I Have Your Wife: The gang initially kidnaps Suzanne because they think she knows where the money is hidden. When it turns out she doesn't, they instead hold her as a bargaining chip to force Johnny to lead them to the loot.
  • Job Title
  • Killed Offscreen: Johnny is told when he returns to prison that Ted and Chas had sold their shares of the stolen loot to Highgate gang. He is also told young Quantock, the driver on the job, had refused to sell his and has been run over and killed.
  • Like Is, Like, a Comma: Clobber is an Australian thug unable to complete a simple sentence without using the word "like". His cellmate Pauly asks him if he can utter a sentence without saying "like" and Clobber fails miserably.
  • London Gangster: The Highgate Gang represent the new breed of London underworld who think they can they can muscle in on the score of an ordinary decent criminal like Johnny Bannion and demand a cut of the loot for merely allowing him to operate on their turf. Bannion does not take kindly to this.
  • A MacGuffin Full of Money: Johnny buries the suitcase full of cash he and his gang stole from the racetrack in an empty field. Various London Gangsters decide that they want that cash and are willing to go to any length to get, including busting Johnny out of prison.
  • Market-Based Title: The Criminal was released in America as The Concrete Jungle.
  • Might as Well Not Be in Prison at All: Frank Saffrion is regarded as the king of Cellblock A. He is in touch with various criminal bigwigs on the outside and is able to obtain almost any kind of contraband—for a price. Late in the movie, he orchestrates a Prison Riot, a transfer for Johnny, and for the prison van to ambushed while it is on the road.
  • A Party, Also Known as an Orgy: The drunken party thrown to celebrate Johnny's release. The first thing Johnny sees on enetering his flat is a couple making out on his couch.
  • Pistol-Whipping : After forcing the prison van off the road, Ted whacks the driver over the head several times with his pistol to knock him out.
  • Pretty in Mink: Maggie is wearing a fur stole when she arrives at Johnny's release party and creates a scene.
  • Prison Riot: Saffrion arranges a prison riot as part of his plan to get Johnny transferred.
  • Sinister Shiv: Pauly is caught with with a shiv on him (possibly planted) during a shakedown by the warders. This is the event that triggers the Prison Riot.
  • The Stool Pigeon: The film opens with Kelly, a known snitch, returning to prison, and he is obviously terrified. His previous actions land him a brutal beating on his first night back.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Bannion has been working on a plan for robbing the racetrack for years while he has been in prison. However, the audience never finds out exactly what the plan is as we are never privy to his discussions with his gang. It is not even shown on screen, as Bannion, Ted and Chas enter the bookies office and the camera stays on Quantock in the getaway car. Whatever the plan is, it works, as the trio exit the office with the cash. It is only after The Heist that things start to fall apart.
  • Vulnerable Convoy: The gang arranges for Johnny to be transferred to another prison, then intercepts the prison van and busts him out.
  • Wardens Are Evil: Barrows is a sadistic bastard who turns a blind eye to the majority of the wrongdoing in the prison so long as his record remains intact. He is complicit in the assault on Kelly by preventing the other warders to intervene.
  • Water Wake-up: Clobber knocks Kelly unconscious, but then wakes him up by emptying a cup of water over his head so he will feel feel the rest of his beating.