Citizen Gangster, I'm at least somewhat familiar now with Canada's most infamous bank robber/outlaws. His name? Edwin Alonzo Boyd.
A World War II veteran living in Canada with his wife, Doreen (Kelly Reilly), and his two kids, Eddie Boyd (Scott Speedman) is torn about the direction his life has taken. He struggles to hold down a job, and his family struggles to get by from paycheck to paycheck. A former actor, he wants to be a famous actor but can't manage to find a successful job. What to do? A desperate Eddie dons face makeup and using a German Luger, he robs a bank, escaping with several thousand dollars. One robbery was easy though, and soon Eddie is making headlines all across Canada as the Masked Bandit. As his notoriety rises though, Eddie must decide what's more important; his family or his infamy?
How much of a release did this Canadian-made movie from director Nathan Morlando (and writer) get in the United States? Apparently not a big one. It made $625. No, you didn't misread that, and it's not $625 thousand. It's slightly less than $700 dollars. To be fair, that box office was from just one theater. 'Gangster' sounded interesting. The true story of an infamous bank robber has a ton of potential. It's stylish, the cast does a decent job, especially Speedman, and the relatively unknown nature of Boyd's bank robbing career (to me at least) all should add up to a good movie. In the end, it's a decent movie but nothing more. There are too many negatives or just odd choices for it to be anything else.
A British actor who isn't a hugely recognizable name, Speedman does a solid job as Canadian bank robber Edwin Alonzo Boyd. I like the edge he brings to the character; a husband and father of two now working as a bus driver, quite a departure from his days as a soldier fighting in WWII Europe. He has to balance out his new found infamy. He genuinely likes the fame, attention and notoriety that comes from the newspaper headlines and radio reports following his robberies. On the other hand, he also wants what is best for his family. Reilly too does a good job as Eddie's wife, Doreen. The part leans a little toward the stereotypical -- constantly worried wife trying to get through to her husband -- but she does a good job making Doreen sympathetic. Also look for Brian Cox as Eddie's father and William Mapother as Detective Rhys, a former soldier now leading the manhunt for Eddie.
Beyond the interesting main character though, 'Gangster' struggles to find any sort of balance among Eddie, his family and his increasingly dangerous bank robbing career. The style is pretty cool, especially its washed out visual look. Everything is pale shades of black, gray and white seemingly. I think the decision to balance Max Richter's score with songs from rock group The Black Keys is a very poor misfire. The modern songs playing over the robberies comes across as hammy, out of place and an attempt at being far too stylized. It cries out 'Look at this! We're being cool!' Mostly though, 'Gangster' tries to tackle too much in a movie that runs just 105 minutes. Months (maybe years? The story isn't real clear...ever) pass and big stretches of time pass without warning. What's the biggest issue? Is it about Eddie's family? His career? His hopes to be famous? Pick one and run with it.
As a fan of just about any gangster-bank robber-outlaw movie/story out there, I was a sucker for anything in the story involving Eddie's actual criminal exploits. His robberies are Dillinger-esque as he leaps over bank counters and dramatically makes away with the money. People look to him as a Robin Hood outlaw of sorts. He's caught (several times actually) but manages to escape and picks up a gang in the process including Kevin Durand (very solid), Joseph Cross and Brendan Fletcher. It is in those scenes where 'Gangster' finds its most reliable rhythm. Instead of a focus just on those scenes, it bounces back and forth between Eddie and Doreen fighting about his actions tearing the family apart. It ends on a really effective ending that deserves a bit of a twist. A mixed bag in the end, with just enough positives to outweigh the negatives.
Citizen Gangster (2011): ** 1/2 /****