Adapted from Alan Sillitoe's novel, Karel Reisz's 1960 "angry young man" missive was a hit in the era of Rebel Without A Cause and Look Back In Anger. These days, it still feels suitably rough 'n' ready, due mainly to its near-dogme authenticity and Albert Finney's definitive, tender-tough lead delivery - in only his second film.
Finney's Arthur Seaton is a Midlands factory drudge with a grudge. When he's not raging against his lot in life, he's spending his money living it up ("the rest is propaganda") and his spare time womanising. But a life of housing-estate hell beckons, and with it the possibility that his brawling spirit might be snuffed out...
Reisz's ideas about working-class virility occasionally veer toward the patronising, but the film still gives off the potent whiff of veracity, from its grimy locations to Finney's driven performance. The ending's nicely ambiguous, too, though it's comforting to believe that the bastards'll never grind Seaton down. Finney's impassioned performance certainly suggests so.