At first, “Citizen Gangster,” inspired by the true story of Toronto public enemy and folk hero Edwin Boyd, is intriguing stuff; an absorbing study of how, circa 1950, a seemingly decent World War II veteran, family man and wannabe actor-turned-bank robber to make ends meet. Unfortunately, after Boyd (Scott Speedman) is inevitably caught and jailed, what’s left is an hour or so of overly familiar characters and situations.
Once in prison, Boyd meets — and later escapes — with a gang of three whose archetypes include the brawn (Kevin Durand), the joker (Brendan Fletcher) and the hanger-on (Joseph Cross). They then join the showman-like Boyd for a series of robberies as a detective (William Mapother) tracks them with an eventual assist from Boyd’s ex-cop father (Brian Cox, underused).
But it’s the fraught relationships between the crooks and their molls and/or wives that pad the action and diffuse the film’s potential tension. Only Boyd’s rocky marriage to the radiant, long-suffering Doreen (an excellent Kelly Reilly) is worth its emotional close-up, despite a stock trajectory.
To his credit, writer-director Nathan Morlando has crafted a stylishly shot and evocatively designed period piece. But it’s the dashing, quietly charismatic Speedman who proves the main draw, holding our attention even when the movie doesn’t.
— Gary Goldstein
“Citizen Gangster.” No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes. At Laemmle’s Monica 4-Plex, Santa Monica.