True-life story that stands on its own merit as a good gangster film.
"What must be appreciated is that war among civilians,such as I am describing, is ever so much more ambiguous and enigmatic than a war between nations". Joe Bonanno.
No pop-corn was crunched, by a decent-sized Glaswegian audience, as they intently watched this film.
Fact. There was another boy who grew up in Blackhill. He avoided drink and got into politics, becoming a local councillor, then council leader, then elected to the Scottish Parliament and held ministerial office. Not all people from Blackhill are the same. Not all Glaswegians are the same.
Male lead plays a boy who grew up in the Blackhill area of Glasgow. The area was a scheme (peripheral estate), which was well known for its criminality and violence. The fear of violence that pervaded this, and similar areas of Glasgow, is shown well in early parts of the film, and throughout it.
The boy is shown trapped in this violent environment, and as he grows up, he has to try to cope with this reality. This film is based on the autobiography of his life. A generation ago, there was a film entitled 'A Sense of Freedom', and this film is of the same genre. The main events in this film occurred about two decades ago in Glasgow. It is amazing that it has taken so long to make a film of those events, as there was always a decent gangster film to be made on the subject. Organized crime in Glasgow is not highly structured, it is based around blood-families and this is shown well in the film. Casual violence is also associated with territorially-based street-gangs.
Lead male acts well, as does the rest of the cast. Main gang-leaders are played well and convince in their roles of gang-leaders oozing cunning and inspiring fear. Their names were well known to Glaswegians, this reviewer has been in company where a certain name has hardly dared to be whispered.
The main events in the film will be familiar to many Glaswegians. It has been too long since this reviewer read the autobiography, or any thing else on the subject, to see how closely the film sticks to this. However, broadly, film sticks to events that are well known; legally, in at least one version of events, or just as mere street gossip.
The film tries to give explanations, which causes the film to jump about a bit chronologically. Real events are shown, but sometimes the chronology is changed. Other real events are added to, for legal or artistic reasons, and they will be easily spotted by Glaswegians. Most of the main events will be familiar to Glaswegians. Outsiders would be surprised how truthful some things were, sometimes just very little details.
The film was not made with a lot of money and this sometimes shows in some stage-sets. There was very little location shooting done in Glasgow, which no doubt Glaswegians will miss and notice. Those not familiar with Glasgow, please note, this does not ruin the film, but please be aware, the real-life Glasgow locations were less grand and more grim. One particular location could not be filmed as it had been demolished. A well-known story, which sadly is not in the film.
I remember reading 'Donny Brasco' many years ago, thinking it would be a great film, and not happy when the film came out, as it was very different from the book. However, 'Donny' is a good film. Treat this film the same way. For artistic and legal reasons, sometimes things need to be changed. The recollections of one person may not match those of someone else.
Some criticize this film for glamourizing violence. This reviewer disagrees. Criminality, gangsterism and violence are de-glamourized by this film.
This film should always have been made. The subject matter makes that so. It is a good gangster film, hence; 7/10.
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