I have written before about my uncomplicated enjoyment for gangster movies, or perhaps just movies where people wear hats and point guns. So while browsing through Amazon for something to write this week’s Movie Monday on, I came up with 2011’s Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster, released here in the UK simply as Gangster. It’s a film about Canada’s most notorious bank robber (of whom I have never heard, naturally) and it stars Brian Cox and … uh oh … Scott Speedman.
Now, this is one of those historical films where the thing that I really valued about it was that it provided this slightly-different view of a) a particular criminal culture and b) the traditional bank-robber movie.
Well, OK, maybe not the traditional bank-robber movie. Here’s the short form:
- Eddy is a dissatisfied, broke WWII vet with a British wife (Kelly Reilly) and two cute kids.
- After he loses his job and gets disapproved at by his dad (Brian Cox), he fails to become an actor. On an impulse, he robs a bank.
- Thrilled and excited by robbin’ banks and havin’ money, he gets even more into it until he gets locked up.
- In the jailhouse, he meets some more bank robbers, led by Lenny (Kevin Durand). They escape and rob some more banks. Oh no — although Eddy stole for his family, his criminal lifestyle cuts him off from them. Irony!
- Lenny and one of the gang shoot a cop, everyone gets arrested, Lenny and whatsisname get hanged, Eddie goes to jail and emerges a broken man, but eventually he moves to British Columbia and gains some off-screen redemption.
- Some Canadian history happens.
It has all the things you would expect: the Heist Montage, the Toughest Guy in the Jail, the Drunken Party, the Quiet Sighing of a Beaten Man, all that kind of thing. It is well-executed but not original other than in its choice of subject.
The surprising thing about this movie is actually … Scott Speedman! He is not terrible. In fact, he’s pretty good.
Boyd’s reputation was as someone who was dashing and charming when robbing banks, and Speedman really conveys that. You get that sense of liberation; most people don’t want to do a murder, but I think everyone would be a bank robber if they thought they could get away with it. Not a lot of sympathy out there for banks.
Anyway, it’s OK. Brian Cox gets a prominent billing on the UK Amazon listing, but he’s not really in it very much; just a piece of prestige casting. Also, Amazon and Netflix have some damned funny ideas about what constitutes a historical film.