Sunday, 13 May 2012

Citizen Gangster: Edwin Boyd (2012)

"What? You mean some other joker is already famous
for robbing banks with face paint on?"
At a glance:
A decidedly indie Canadian product made by Canadians and starrin mostly Canadians, about the true life story of a Canadian bloke who went from war vet bus driver to wannabe actor and accomplished bank robber in 1949. The eldest son of a police officer, this slippery son of Toronto with two jailbreaks under his belt was Edwin Alonzo Boyd - and as I understand it, not that widely known among locals after all. In an interview, Canadian main cast member Kevin Durand said he didn't know about the Boyd Gang prior to his involvement. The movie trailer plays Boyd up a flamboyant, tapdancin rogue who flirts with the blushin tellers, but conceivably he and his band of miscreants
were actually responsible for the biggest bank robbery of all time in Toronto. In fact, their unprecedented manhunt, escapes and arrests became the subject of the first news report on CBC TV.
"Are you sure nobody will make a movie about our scandalous
extra-marital affair and embarrass our grandchildren?"
Anyway, Boyd's story had been told before in the TV movie The Life And Times Of Edwin Alonzo Boyd (1982) starrin Gordon Pinsent but it was in 1995 that Toronto uni student Nathan Morlando contacted the real Edwin Boyd for biopic aspirations. They apparently developed a phone relationship and after 15 years, last week the husband-and-wife team of debutant director Morlando and producer Allison Black were at hand to see the Canadian general release of Citizen Gangster: Edwin Boyd (2012) after its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival last year.
Bad news on the doorstep:
Hey, you know it's pretty hard for me not to sing praises about any half decent gangster flick that comes my way, especially one about a real life criminal with folk hero qualities. However, as I watched this at the Lightbox on openin night with the filmmakin duo in attendance for a little Q & A, it dawned upon me that Citizen Gangster: Edwin Boyd was only half the movie it could've been.
Canadian actor Scott Speedman is Edwin Boyd, Toronto's slipperiest son.
The director says he actually looks like Edwin Boyd.
Despite a classy muted colour scheme to lend credence to the period detail, what he have here is an uneven crime drama, diluted by the dynamics of undue heed paid to various parts of Morlando's homework that he selected i.e. the uneasy focus on supportin characters when Speedman's Boyd was already in danger of appearin too pedestrian. The titular character had authority and looked great in the trailer but suffers from havin to have to share too much of the spotlight with other people who muddy the proceedings and have us askin what's so great about Eddie Boyd in the first place?

The real Edwin Alonzo Boyd
Through some admission by the filmmakers, we learn of production compromises that were made, and now they had me reduced to guessin which relatives said no to what, as the story arc did less and less to help make Boyd larger than life, somethin one has legitimate expectations of from watchin the trailer. Morlando's depth of research has somehow failed to convert to its emotional equivalent onscreen and we are left with a labour of love that definitely reflected the filmmaker's ambitions but flawed by production exigencies that weren't only concernin its admittedly small budget.
Standout support from Kevin Durand as a villainous colleague.
Maybe he would've made a more memorable Boyd?
Perennial wonderment:
Did Boyd's kids effectively disowned him? In an interview with Morlando, he was quoted as sayin: “The way he [Boyd] talked about his bank robbing exploits, he was still very excited by it. But when I talked to him about his relationship with his children and his relationship with his ex-wife, he couldn’t hide behind the fun of the bank-robbing… You could see it in his eyes that there was incredible loss and regret.” Yet the daughter, Carolyn, seemed to have approved of the movie accordin to the filmmakers, who are in turn heavin a sign of relief. Morlando told the Lightbox openin crowd that it was her creative input behind the literal money-launderin scene.
"But darling, if you steal grocery, you can't get the air miles!"
Most memorable line:
This is what I mean. They didn't even give him some cool lines to say.
Amacam joker, berapa bintang lu mau kasi?
At the end of the movie, we learn through title cards of Eddie's fate but not before an unusual sequence of events that would lead him to some form of bizarre redemption. These events, if they had only been featured in the slightest, would've possibly reconnected us to Boyd and given the picture a badly needed gloss of epic.
Perhaps Liam Lacey's take is more mature than mine, as he wrote: "In the Hollywood version, Edwin Boyd should have gone out in a hail of bullets and twitching limbs. Citizen Gangster deals him a more ignominious sentence: He is forced to become ordinary again." ★★ 1/2

Trailer for the curious: