Citizen Gangster follows real-life figure Edwin Boyd (Scott Speedman) as he transitions from bus driver to theatrical bank robber. A World War II veteran, Edwin struggles to support his wife Doreen (Kelly Reilly) and two children, and dreams of being an actor. One day, he dons makeup and robs a bank at gunpoint. He realizes that, aided by his athletic abilities, this is easy money. Not to mention, he gains the thrill of attention he's always wanted.
In spite of his short-lived joy, the film's bleak colors convey Edwin's depressing, increasingly desperate situation. Unfortunately, the audience never quite connects the rather passive, mild mannered man to his wilder counterpart. The movie also depicts the robberies as more surreal, bemusing, and exciting than harmful, perhaps in order to convey how the media romanticized Boyd's crimes.
The story touches on Edwin's relationship with his father (Brian Cox), a retired policeman, but their complex history is not fully explored. Partway through the film, Kevin Durand brightens the screen as fellow bank robber and veteran Lenny Jackson. Unlike his mostly forgettable criminal friends, Lenny shows believable volatility and unexpected heart. Though not one to be messed with, he latches onto Edwin like a brother. The genuine bond between Edwin and Lenny is one of the most successful aspects of the film.
Their descent into living above the law is not glamorized. Boyd's relationship with his wife is increasingly strained, and the affect his actions have on his family is painful to watch. Still, though well made, the biopic Citizen Gangster never becomes more than the sum of its parts.