Donal MacIntyre's documentary about Manchester crime boss Dominic Noonan features some strikingly intimate footage of Noonan's extended family, but lets Noonan himself drives the show and his colorful tales of villainy that cry out for more context than MacIntyre provides.
The Noonan family has been the scourge of the Manchester police for 30 years, says the film's narrator, and they have deep roots in the impoverished neighborhood where 39-year-old Dominic lives when he's not in prison, where he's spent more than half his life despite his reputation for walking away from serious criminal charges scot free. During one hitch he orchestrated the 1990 Strangeways riot, which lasted nearly a month and went down as the worst prison uprising in British penal history. The Noonans were desperately poor -- Dominic and his brothers, Damian and Desmond, grew up stealing neighbors' fences for firewood – and quickly turned to more serious crime. Dominic specialized in holding up armored cars, while Desmond – "Dessie" -- graduated to gangland executions. By the time MacIntyre began filming, he had also become addicted to crack, and was eventually stabbed to death in a soured drug deal – his funeral is one of the film's set pieces. Dominic claims he's trying to go straight, running a security firm and acting as an unofficial neighborhood social worker who sorts out problems ranging from loud noise complaints to retrieving the child of a young woman whose parents disapprove of her boyfriend to dealing with the man who attacked a local householder and threatened to burn down his house. But mostly Dominic talks: About being gay, about police harassment, about dressing sharp and why his crew is almost all teenagers – they're more loyal than older men, he says. Dominic also lavishes attention on his small son, Bugsy, who wants to be a boxer when he grows up, and on nephew Sean, who sings at "weddings, funerals and acquittals… mostly acquittals."
Dominic tells an entertaining tale, even when it involves cutting off a dogs head just to let the owner know he means business. He's full of snappy answers -- How does he sleep at night? "Laid out on me bed, straight," he replies -- and when he doesn't like the question, he just sidesteps it. It's all eminently watchable, but feels more like the run up to a larky crime picture like LOCK, STOK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS (1998) than a serious documentary. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh