Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Nathan Morlando's CITIZEN GANGSTER tracks the career of a Canadian criminal

Canadian criminal? Sounds like a contradiction in terms. But no, our neighbor to the north -- for all its reputation as being kinder, gentler and (unfair!) more boring than the good ol' USA -- has had its share of criminals over the decades. One of the more interesting of these was Edwin Alonzo Boyd, a WWII vet who grew unsatisfied with the opportunities offered by post-war Canada and so turned to crime to pay the rent and other outstan-ding bills. This happened, or so the new movie based around Boyd's life tells us, partially because of Lorne Greene (that's right: the Bonanza star) whom Boyd had evidently met and who told the soldier to stop in to his acting school and give "the boards" a try. He does, but Greene is off in Hollywood by then and no help at all. What's a poor guy to do but to put those would-be acting talents to work by, yes, robbing banks while wearing heavy-duty make-up.

That make-up, used as a kind of disguise, is one of the more interesting aspects of first-time, full-length filmmaker (shown in shadow, left) Nathan Morlando's new movie CITIZEN GANGSTER, which gives us a peek into the life of this guy and his family, as well as at some of the less savory companions he meets in prison and bonds with in his further criminal career. Would that there were more of these aspects, but the director/
writer sticks pretty much to standard-trope story-telling. Since most Americans will be unfamiliar with Boyd's career, this might prove interesting enough to hold us for 105 minutes. It did -- for TrustMovies, at least.

Well-cast and very well performed, the movie gets the dowdy look of post-war Canadian life quite right. In the lead role Scott Speedman (above), looking good, as usual, does well enough as the younger Boyd and really comes into his own in the final scenes. Instead of the usual love-conquers-all, we get love's betrayal in the two relationships that matter most in the film -- in one case probably unavoidable in order to give the family in question a decent life-after-notoriety. At this end-point, for the first time in the film, we feel strongly for the character, due, I think, to the fact that the screenplay makes Boyd's inability to engage with society due more to innate character flaws, unseen by the audience, than to anything going on in the civilization around him. (The single scene of his helping a wheelchair-bound ex-soldier onto the bus he's driving is not enough to make of him a legitimate rebel or hero.)

The other relationship that goes south is that of gang member Val Kozak (played by the now growing-up Running With Scissors' vet Joseph Cross, above, right) and his girl Mary (Charlotte Sullivan, above,  left). Val, you see, has left a pregnant wife at home to run off with his foxy floozie, but when baby arrives, the guy is, as they say, torn between two lovers. It's his choice that leads to the resulting chaos.

The always-good Kelly Reilly (above) plays Boyd's long-suffering wife, while the ubiquitous Brian Cox essays his dissatisfied-with-my-son policeman father. Registering most strongly perhaps is Kevin Durand as gang member Lenny Jackson. Durand's quicksilver changes from smart and decent to angry/crazy keep us -- and the movie -- nicely off-balance.

Citizen Gangster, from IFC Films, opens this Friday, April 27, at the IFC Center in New York City (showing twice daily) and at the Laemmle Monica Four-plex on Friday, May 4.  Simultaneous with its NYC opening, it will makes its VOD debut. You can learn how to VOD it by clicking here.

No comments: