Like his prior film The Krays, the subject of Peter Medak's Let Him Have It is the British system of crime and punishment. Based on a real 1952 case, the film examines the circumstances of a murder committed by Derek Bentley… MoreLike his prior film The Krays, the subject of Peter Medak's Let Him Have It is the British system of crime and punishment. Based on a real 1952 case, the film examines the circumstances of a murder committed by Derek Bentley (Christopher Eccleston), a brain-damaged teen, and Chris Craig (Paul Reynolds), a macho 16-year-old; after the naive Derek seemingly goads the impetuous Chris into murdering a policeman, it's up to the courts to decide the guilt of both boys.
The script, by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, finds enough quirks in its protagonists to lift them above the issues-movie premise. Michael Kamen's atmospheric chamber score is also crucial to the film's success.
The last 30 minutes of the story are overwhelmingly strong, blending human drama and social history into a series of extremely moving scenes, leading to a brief coda that's as unexpected and audacious as anything seen on a movie screen in years.
As the protagonist/victim, Eccleston gives a superb, riveting performance in his feature-film debut, as does Reynolds, another newcomer who deftly handles the role of the gun-crazy and trigger-happy Chris.
Let Him Have It is unabashedly weighted toward the perspective of the murderer as victim -- a notion that does not enjoy much public currency in our more violent times. But if ever there was a victim of the judicial system, it was Derek Bentley.