Okay, so it ain’t new. Yeah, it’s hard out there for a bank robber. There was Bonnie and Clyde, Public Enemies and Dog Day Afternoon. Still, the reason these movies get made over and over is entertainment. It’s darned sexy to watch outlaws. Then the inevitable crash and burn breaks our hearts.
One of Citizen Gangster’s great strengths is brilliant casting. Scott Speedman delivers as real-life 1950s Toronto bank robber Edwin “Eddie” Boyd. His long-suffering wife Doreen is played—have a tissue in reach—by Kelly Reilly. Eddie’s gang members are Val Kozak (Joseph Cross), Willy “the Clown” Jackson (Brendan Fletcher), and Lenny Jackson. Jackson is portrayed with electrifying testosterone by Kevin Durand. Brian Cox has few scenes but when he does he eats up the screen as Glover Boyd, Eddie’s retired policeman father torn by love and disgust for his ne’er-do-well son.Charlotte Sullivan plays the blonde bimbo-turned-snitch and character actor William Mapother (Tom Cruise’s first cuz) plays Police Detective Rhys.
Writer and director Nathan Morlando was raised on stories of the legendary Eddie Boyd and the Boyd Gang. Eddie’s mother was a young Toronto teen at the height of Boyd’s media coverage as a charming, rebellious, and idealized gangster. Morlando’s dream was to write the screenplay. Through a professor who had a connection to someone who knew someone who knew Boyd, Morlando was able to get in touch with Boyd who was living under a protected identity in Vancouver Island.
After Morlando met Boyd, he also tracked down and met with Boyd’s estranged wife and daughter. With this personal connection to the story, Morlando created a film that depicts Eddie Boyd as the complex character he was—loving husband and father, confused war veteran coming home to no glory and no job, and the thrill-seeking charismatic wannabe actor who gained fame through his infamy as a bank robber.
In Morlando’s words, “He was a man who turned the bankteller’s counter into his stage. He had a rock star confidence fashioning his criminal persona the way he did, with subtle stage makeup and stylish gangster clothes. I see him as an early vision—a precursor of a yet-to-be-seen David Bowie, but with fedora and gun.”
Though Citizen Gangster takes place right after WWII, it still seems timely now—soldiers like Eddie Boyd came home from war to a sickly economy, no jobs, and no glory.
The pallid colors are a clever juxtaposition to the glee in scenes like Eddie dancing carefree on a bank counter. Those colors, combined with the captivating cinematography, foreshadow and make tangible the fate of these sympathetic, yet doomed, characters. The weight of repercussions from Eddie’s poor choices show us crime indeed does not pay.
105 min. Opens in NY Theaters May 16.