Unsuccessful doc belies a director's eye toward gangster flicks

A Very British Gangster

on January 19, 2007 by Jay Antani
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In A Very British Gangster, director Donal MacIntyre seems less interested in making a meaningful documentary and more in trumpeting his desire to be the next Quentin Tarantino or Guy Ritchie. MacIntyre's subject is Dominic Noonan, a career criminal out of Manchester who also happens to be openly gay. But, judging from the wall-to-wall Brit-pop soundtrack, the rather pat presentation of Noonan himself and a visual aesthetic that shunts pointlessly between the low-budget verite of a TV news segment and the slicker production values of big-screen crime movies like Snatch or Reservoir Dogs, it's clear that MacIntyre can't commit to what he wants to make and what, if anything, he wishes to say.

MacIntyre follows Noonan, narrating the pertinent details of his life and livelihood as he tries to win acquittals in a succession of criminal trials against him — involving everything from drug dealing to firearms possession to armed robbery. As such, MacIntyre does a decent enough job of sketching out Noonan's persona. Sporting a dapper suit, nerdy specs, squeaky bald head and low-key vibe, Noonan makes for an oddly disarming figure. His criminal record may be voluminous enough to fill up a library, but to locals Noonan is a benefactor — a fixer, therapist and underworld employer rolled into one.

What appeal Gangster has is incidental and, frankly, exploitative, derived from the fascination we take in watching the denizens of Noonan's downtrodden Manchester neighborhood. There's a wealth of material here — Noonan's own personal and criminal past, the future of his two sons, the socioeconomic blight afflicting his community — to delve into and create an incisive, honest portrait of a man and his environment. MacIntyre pokes around each of these, but his attempts feel perfunctory. They're limited to off-handed and unexamined remarks (as when Noonan mentions the sexual abuse he suffered as an adolescent), lingering moments with his forlorn children and funny but aimless interviews with Noonan's family and petty-thief cronies, all of which illuminates frustratingly little. Instead, MacIntyre channels his energies toward filling his compositions and soundtrack with crime-movie attitude — including immaculate crane shots of Noonan's working-class milieu — that seem ridiculously out of place here but could be right at home in Britain's next big gangster flick, which MacIntyre is clearly itching to make. Distributor: TBD
Cast: Dominic Noonan
Director/Producer: Donal MacIntyre
Genre: Documentary
Rating: Not yet rated
Running time: 97 min.
Relaese date: TBD

Tags: gangster, documentary, biography, Dominic Noonan, Donal MacIntyre
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