October 14, 2008
A Very British Gangster
Reviewer: James van Maanen
Ratings (out of 5): ***½
Gay liberation takes on a whole new meaning with A Very British Gangster, the documentary by Donal MacIntyre that explores the infamous Noonan family of Manchester, England. Initially appearing like a rowdy bunch of over-age high-schoolers, the Noonan clan, friends and hangers-on slowly morph into something far more complex -- and troubling. And so, too, does the film itself.
MacIntyre is ever the gentleman as he quietly urges gang leader Dominic Noonan to spill the beans, and Noonan complies all too well. Though he (along with others in his family/troupe) occasionally withholds some information, mostly the man is happy to be the center of attention, whatever that may mean or lead to.
The film does show various sides to the situation at hand: how the Noonans act as peacekeepers and problem-solvers, as well as bag men, blackmailers and, it would seem, murderers. When the local schools close in order to honor the funeral of the gang's most notorious and deadly member, you may be forgiven for wondering if the British government has gone into hiding.
How far society has come and how far it has left to go can be seen in Noonan and his gang's attitude toward homosexuality. What we see and hear would have been unthinkable a decade or so earlier. Part of you may want to shout hurrah to this welcome and interesting development, but don't be surprised to find that cheer curdling in your throat. Did someone say "role model"?
Note: Every one of the DVD "deleted scene" extras is worth seeing. Each adds something interesting and provocative to what we already know.
Posted by cphillips at October 14, 2008 1:49 PM