Saturday, June 2, 2012

Movie Review: Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster

Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster ** ½
Directed by: Nathan Morlando.
Written by: Nathan Morlando.
Starring: Scott Speedman (Edwin Boyd), Kelly Reilly (Doreen Boyd), Kevin Durand (Lenny Jackson), Joseph Cross (Val Kozak), Brendan Fletcher (Willie 'The Clown' Jackson), Charlotte Sullivan (Mary Mitchell), Melanie Scrofano (Ann Roberts), Brian Cox (Glover), William Mapother (Detective David Rhys).

The opening title card of Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster informs us that in war, there is no such thing as an unwounded soldier. The only problem with this statement is that it becomes the only real insight we are given into the title character. Edwin Boyd returns from WWII, to his wife Doreen (Kelly Reilly) and their two kids, and a job as a bus driver. He has a flair for the dramatic, and thinks that maybe he could be an actor instead of a bus driver – but that dream quickly goes up in smoke. So what does Edwin Boyd decide to do? Rob banks. Even after he is arrested the first time, Doreen sticks by him – when he escapes from prison with a new gang that will help him do bigger jobs, Doreen is there beside him. But Boyd cannot ever really leave that flair for the dramatic behind him – he draws too much attention to himself and his gang. He becomes a folk hero of sorts – Canada’s answer to Bonnie and Clyde perhaps.

The film has a nice visual look – set in Toronto in what seems like a perennial winter, and writer/director Nathan Morlando does a good job capturing what a long, dreary slog a Canadian winter can be. The colors lack vibrancy, which is appropriate for the movie, and the period detail is pretty much spot on.

It also must be said that Scott Speedman is very good as Edwin Boyd. Speedman is charming, funny, easy going and likable. You can understand why his wife stood by him, his gang stood by him, the media was enamored with him, and even some of the people he robs find him charming. The problem with the character is the lack of depth that Morlando gives him – other than that opening quote, you never really get the feeling that Boyd is doing this because he is haunted by the war. There are a few moments – like helping a handicapped vet get on the bus – that hint at that, but it is never explored in any real way – that’s not Speedman’s fault, but the screenplays. The other characters also lack definition, but are performed well enough by the solid stable of actors. Kelly Reilly has the plum role of Boyd’s long suffering wife who has to decide whether or not to stick with Boyd through thick and thin. The rest of the cast is fine, but aren’t really given all that much to work with.
The story of Edwin Boyd, which has pretty much been forgotten by most Canadians, could and should make a great movie. And yet, while Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster has a charismatic lead and a fine visual look, and is never really boring, it just never truly involved me either. I could never get a read on who Edwin Boyd really was – and why he makes the decisions he does.  There is a great movie in this story – unfortunately, this isn’t it.

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