Citizen Gangster: A (Sort of) True Story

I went into this movie really wanting to like it, and hoping that it lived up to the praise that my old Canadian Studies professors had heaped onto it when I was in college. Citizen Gangster ended up being just about the best you could hope for out of a relatively low  budget independent film; decent acting, based on a true story (The term is used very liberally here, as many aspects of the story are altered for thematic purposed from what actually happened,) as well as very solid directing.

Edwin Boyd is a returning WWII veteran who has to drive a bus in order to provide for his family. He dreams of one day becoming a big time actor, and wishes that he was able to afford more for the people that he loves. Eventually, his frustration with his life leads him to combine his love of acting and money; as he begins a spree of robbing Canadian banks whilst wearing makeup and putting on a performance. What Boyd fails to realize is that too much of what he does is based on his own ego, and making him feel better about himself, rather than following his claimed motive and simply doing what would be best for his wife and kids. ( I think Vince Gilligan might’ve watched this film, in that regard.)

Of course, no story about a real life bank robber goes without a hitch, and that is where the film takes some generous liberties with the plot, including romantic struggles, relationships with family members, and group capture scenes which never happened or are, at the best, a stretch of the truth. But what the movie lacks in authenticity it more than makes up for in having a solid message, presenting believable characters and doing it all in the snowy background of post-World War II Canada. Many Americans might not know this, but Canada’s contributions in both World Wars were enormous, and proportionately by population the troop commitment in each was much more significant than that of the United States.

The film is certainly worth a watch, but if you do enjoy it you also owe it to yourself to research the authentic story of Edwin Boyd and his gang, because even without theater dramatizations, it still makes for a solid story.

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