MPI // 2011 // 105 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // October 24th, 2012
Gangster. Media darling. Model citizen.
I'd never been exposed to the legend that is Edwin Boyd, but apparently for Canadians, he was a big deal. As Toronto's most famous criminal, Boyd took to robbing banks in the late-1940s, including some of the biggest heists in Canadian history, and escaped from prison twice before finally serving out a sentence for his crimes. His story has been adapted for the screen by first time director Nathan Morlado as Citizen Gangster, an uneven but decent biopic that seems more interested in maintaining cinematic convention than it does in historical accuracy.
Boyd (Scott Speedman, Underworld) is a World War II vet whose life after the war has been rife with disappointment. Though he has a lovely wife (Kelly Reilly, Eden Lake) and family, money is tight and he can't catch a break. One day, in a fit of frustration, he grabs his gun and starts robbing banks. He falls in love with the media attention he gets and soon becomes the antihero of Toronto, stealing hearts and money throughout the area until he's finally sent to prison. There, he meets a couple of like-minded prisoners and they make a break for it. Now called the Boyd Gang, they get back to business, making some of the biggest scores in Canadian history. Boyd is in danger of losing his family, though, and he can only run from the law for so long.
I have no idea how close Citizen Gangster is to the real story of Edwin Boyd, but given that the cover states that the movie is "inspired by true events," I suspect that it isn't particularly accurate. Given the tired way the plot plays out, I have a hard time believing very much beyond the most basic historical facts.
Even if the story that writer/director Nathan Morlando tried to tell is completely true, it still wouldn't be very interesting. The soldier turned gangster story has been done better plenty of times and the charismatic bank robber just as often. It doesn't bring anything new to the table, except maybe the conceit that Boyd was a family man at heart, which is just one preposterous point in the story. The breaking point for Boyd, who apparently is also a failed actor, fails to get an audition with Lorne Greene, so he slaps on some of his wife's makeup and robs a bank. The group is able to escape prison because of a hacksaw that fellow veteran and crook Lenny (Kevin Durand, Real Steel) has stashed in his wooden leg. Things like this just make the whole thing seem silly and the relationships aren't defined well enough to make up for it.
On the plus side, the performances are pretty decent. Scott Speedman delivers a good bit of charisma in the lead role, and as his wife, Kelly Reilly is a sympathetic figure, but she has little to do but sit and worry, so her work is wasted. The gang is your standard motley crew and each has his own colorful girlfriend and, really, all of these scenes work pretty well. It's a small of the film, though, that is more or less forgotten by the end, which makes the events as they play out even less interesting. Morlando, in his debut feature, shows some skill behind the camera. The film looks good for an independent, with a cold grey palette, good looking cinematography, and a solid score by Max Richter (Perfect Sense). He has talent, but in this case, not enough to make up for the often suspect writing.
MPI's release of Citizen Gangster is a good looking disc. The 2.40:1 anamorphic image accurately presents the grey-blue look of the film. The colors are strong and the black levels have good depth, without any transfer errors to speak of. The 5.1 surround mix doesn't really have much punch. Though there is some action in the rear channels, it isn't enough, especially during the gunfight scenes. Dialog and music are clearly defined, however, and there's no noise; it's a solid enough mix. The only extra beyond the trailer is a series of interviews with the cast and crew, where they talk about the real life character and how they tried to portray him in the film.
Citizen Gangster isn't necessarily a bad film, but it just doesn't pack the power of better films that do the same thing. Morlando shows some talent in his debut feature, but for something based on a true story, this Edwin Boyd character led an oddly clichéd life.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated