CITIZEN GANGSTER - The True Story of Edwin Boyd, Toronto’s Most Famous Post-World War II CriminalApril 19, 2012
On Demand Weekly provides new movie reviews of hot movies on demand and from the POV of watching from the comfort of your home. Today’s review: CITIZEN GANGSTER (IFC Films).
By Joe Charnitski
There’s good news and bad news about making a film that’s based on a true story. The bad news is that you are stuck with the events as they happened. Certainly artistic license can be used, but only to a degree. Ultimately, the story is what the story is.
Now, the good news is that, for the most part, you are free from worries about believability. Someone can’t say, “Aw, that would never happen” about a true story, truth being stranger than fiction and all that. It happened. It’s real. Deal with it.
CITIZEN GANGSTER, the debut feature film from Nathan Morlando, is based on the true story of Edwin Boyd, Toronto’s most famous post-World War II criminal (don’t ask me who their most famous pre-World War II criminal is). Boyd served his country in the war and came home to a menial job driving a bus. That job wasn’t going to be enough to feed his family, or, more importantly, Boyd’s insatiable desire for fame and adulation. Soon, he takes a bold move: he robs a bank. And off we go.
CITIZEN GANGSTER gets a lot of forgiveness because it’s based on a true story. For example, the film makes bank robbery appear to be the easiest profession in the world. You run into a bank, hop over the counter, smile at the girl who hands you a bag filled with money and you run, maybe after you deliver a one-liner. Also, Boyd (played by FELICITY alum Scott Speedman) sure takes to it very quickly. We don’t get the sense that he’s ever had anything resembling a criminal past, but he never has a doubt about robbing people for a living. But, I guess that how it happened, right?
Of course, the film is also stuck with the events as they occurred, and the way they decide to structure those events in the script doesn’t do the picture any favors. The repetition of heist, arrest, breakout, repeat doesn’t feel like a compelling commentary on the life of a crook. It doesn’t feel like much of anything really. Is Boyd’s wife really going to leave him? Will he reconcile with his father (Brian Cox as a retired cop)? Will Lorne Green offer him a part in his next tv show? All reasonable questions, I just didn’t care enough about the answers.
The cast isn’t bad. Overall they bring a lot of energy and life to the characters, although I don’t think Speedman is the right choice for the lead. We’re supposed to believe that all of Canada is captivated by this guy. I didn’t buy it. Speedman doesn’t bring the depth and breadth required to make this anti-hero leap off the screen like the filmmakers clearly want him to.
I will say that the film looks pretty darn good. Steven Cosens cinematography reminds me a little of HBO’s BOARDWALK EMPIRE and a little bit of Adam Kimmel’s work in CAPOTE. The look is cold and consistent and just right for the tone and topic. Everything else is pretty forgettable, true story or not.
- Joe Charnitski
Joe Charnitski is a new contributing writer to On Demand Weekly. His career in film and television production, development and marketing has included stops at Miramax Films, Syfy and VH1. He currently works at a entertainment focused social media marketing agency in New York City. Twitter: @JoeCharnitski
CITIZEN GANGSTER (IFC Films) can be found under your cable system's Movie On Demand section.
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