The Wee Man (review)

The Wee Man red light Martin Compston

I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

You’d never guess, from this semifictionalized look at his early life and some of his crimes, that Paul Ferris is a notorious Scottish gangster who has courted controversy since he went straight, becoming a literary and reality-TV star and even, outrageously, via taxpayer-funded security and policing contacts in and around Glasgow. No, in this almost genteel film — or as genteel as a film about men who intimidate and kill for a living can be — Ferris is a little boy lost, a rare man of principle in an urban cesspit. The world is a scary forest, Ferris’s father (Denis Lawson: Horatio Hornblower: The Fire Ship) tells young 1974 Paul (Daniel Kerr), where even the cops are monsters; plus bullies killed 10-year-old Paul’s pet dog. And so of course 1990s Paul (Martin Compston: The Damned United) has gotta do what he’s gotta do to survive in such a harsh environment: he only resorts to a stabbing to defend the honor of a lady (though he does admit to enjoying it), and in his work as an enforcer for Arthur “The Godfather” Thompson (Patrick Bergin: Ella Enchanted), why, he’s downright kind, declining to rough up up a deadbeat “client” in front of his kids and refusing to kill “civilians,” unlike Thompson’s son and putative heir, Junior (Stephen McCole), who’s one of those crazy gangsters who’s actually obsessed with The Godfather (the movie, that is). Paul, we’re meant to see, is a reasonable man in an insane world. Except… he isn’t. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that a film produced with the cooperation of the real Ferris would downplay the man’s unpleasantness, but that doesn’t make it any more palatable. Writer-director Ray Burdis’s previous film, the hilarious Love, Honour, and Obey, held up fictional mobsters for ridicule; now, he’s holding up an actual mobster as something nearly noble. It’s ugly.

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