28 November 2010 | bkoganbing
A Thieving Boy
The blacklisted Joseph Losey whose loss to the American cinema was the United Kingdom's gain took his knowledge of American prison films to fashion this gem. Starring in Concrete Jungle is the premier British tough guy Stanley Baker in a role that in America, Humphrey Bogart might have been given first crack at.
Whoever said there was no honor among thieves must have run with Baker's mob. When we meet him, he's a day away from his release from one jail sentence, but not until some prison justice is meted out to a newly arriving Patrick Magee with whom Baker has a grudge over a previous job.
No sooner is Baker out than he's back in a nice caper concerning the robbery of a racetrack. But thieves being what they are somebody rats and Baker's back in stir. But not before he's buried the loot and doesn't tell anyone, the same thing he was mad at Magee for.
It's a scurvy lot Baker has for friends, I haven't seen this many bad people hold a viewer's interest without there being any redeeming good people in a film since I first saw Goodfellas. But like Goodfellas there is something fascinating about Baker and the whole crew, people like Sam Wanamaker, Gregoire Aslan, etc. Even the cops like Laurence Naismith aren't especially heroic. Naismith admits as much, he's just got a well developed system of stool pigeons which any cop worth his badge has.
Baker really dominates the film, the United Kingdom hasn't produced an actor like him since. Concrete Jungle is a classic example of his tough guy appeal and a great introduction to him.
And you'll love Cleo Laine's singing of A Thieving Boy at the beginning and end of the film.