Dir: Donal MacIntyre.
Donal MacIntyre's first feature is a documentary portrait of Dominic
Noonan, a working-class British gangster who is the head of Manchester's biggest crime family. Both a study in the politics of crime and a fascinating insight into a large poverty-stricken community which defers to gangland rules over the laws of the land, MacIntyre exposes a dark side to English society which is shocking and rarely glimpsed in non-fiction films.
MacIntyre is a famous investigative journalist who has spent long periods undercover for the BBC and infiltrated criminal communities, football hooligan gangs and the
He spent three years following Noonan through his day-to-day business as community leader and fixer, through several court trials with charges including
murder and drug trafficking, and his brother's murder. It ends with his latest incarceration on gun possession charges.
The film has a shot at theatrical sales around the world, in particular in the
Central to the film's commercial appeal is the character of Noonan himself, a cross between Robin Hood and Don Vito Corleone, a man who has spent literally half of his 45 years in prison on charges of heists, armed robberies, fraud, police assault and witness intimidation.
Eight of those years were spent in solitary confinement. He led the Strangeways prison riots and is linked to numerous murders, kidnappings and torture. The Noonan family of which he is the head is one of the most powerful
in the north of England, and when a member dies, usually in a gangland hit, the city itself closes down for the funeral.
He is a charismatic, commanding and ribald figure who possesses a strong sense of community and responsibility. Swanning around the council estates and rundown streets of his patch, a tight-fitting suit covering his bulky frame, his head bald, Noonan is a wonderful subject for a film.
He is also - and here's what gives the film even more of a marketing hook - an out-and-proud gay man living around people who traditionally scorn homosexuality.
MacIntyre is a presence in the film, accompanying Noonan and his posse of spotty young lad henchmen on their daily missions helping out members of their community who are in trouble.
We meet his young protege Aaron, a brutal thug who possesses none of Noonan's 'values' in protecting one's own, planning instead to inherit his mentor's mantle through violence and drug dealing. Noonan has a strict code, a moral code of sorts, which explains why he changed his name to Dominic
Lattlay Fottfoy - which stands for 'Look after those that look after you, fuck off those that fuck off you.'
But while Noonan here is a colourful character to watch, MacIntyre also illuminates the struggles of his community to sruvive in extreme poverty, the ever-present threat of violence, the rampant use of drugs and the temptation of a life of crime.
This is the world of chain-smoking and chips with everything, a world where Noonan's private security firm and banking services are thriving businesses which the police find well nigh impossible to bring down.
Particularly touching in this harsh milieu are Noonan's godson, who has plans to become a singing star (he sings publicly, he says, mainly at weddings, funerals and acquittals, but mostly acquittals) and Noonan's young son Bugsy, a sweet kid who barely knows his father and who must decide in the future whether to enter the family business.
The film is a portrait and as such doesn't have a particular narrative arc. That said, it is never boring and Noonan clearly relishes being the star of his own gangster movie, as compelling - and infinitely more chilling - than Pacino or De Niro, Cagney or Robinson, Michael Caine in Get Carter or Bob Hoskins in The Long Good Friday.
MacIntyre works hard to bring a cinematic quality to the material: his visual depiction of the neighbourhoods is striking, sometimes poetic, and he has put together a non-stop soundtrack featuring pounding rap tracks as well as Oasis anthems.
The film touches on Noonan's homosexuality but doesn't delve deep into his romantic life or experience, other than a disturbing sequence in which the gangster describes the revenge he wrought on his schoolmates who sexually abused him continuously through his childhood.
Irish Film Board
Strategic Film Partners