5 out of 10
Release Date: 15th July 2013 (DVD Premiere)
Director: Ray Burdis (Angel (2015) / Love Honour & Obey / Final Cut / Operation – Good Guys (TV))
Cast: Martin Compston, Patrick Bergin, John Hannah, Stephen McCole, Laura McGonagle, Clare Grogan with Denis Lawson and Rita Tushingham
Writer: Ray Burdis
Trailer: THE WEE MAN
Former actor Ray Burdis (Scum) returns to the director’s chair after 2001’s Love, Honour and Obey with this true life story of Glasgow gangster Paul ‘Wee Man’ Ferris. Ferris is played by independent film mainstay Martin Compston (PIGGY) who delivers one of his best performances since his debut in Ken Loach’s Sweet Sixteen. It’s heartening to add that The Wee Man is carried by some very strong performances but what seems like a merciless final edit and a clunky script stop this from being a crucial watch. I surmise that there is a longer more thoughtful cut of The Wee Man sitting around somewhere because the whole film seems too choppy, with the earlier years run through at some speed and the time to establish Ferris whittled down to just minutes. You can see the effort the actors have put into their performances but it seems like the editor has been really brutal. As a result, the script has been boiled down to basics. Its not until the later stages of the film do we begin to get any feel for the characters, but by then its too late to care. There’s also virtually no time chronicling Ferris‘ rise to the top of the gangster pile, he just stabs someone and Patrick Bergin (HIGHWAY TO HELL) gives him a job, bingo! Surely, real life wasn’t that simple. Now, I’m not familiar with Paul Ferris’ story but I’m sure there was so much more to tell and as for historical accuracy… I’m also wondering how much of it is truth bearing in mind that the real Ferris is leading a crime-free life in the South of England.
Veteran Irish actor Patrick Bergin delivers a towering performance as the king of Glasgow’s gangland. It’s a shame that we don’t see him more often. He showed much promise in the 1990s in films like Map Of The Human Heart and even Sleeping With The Enemy. Elsewhere Stephen McCole (NEDS) steals the film as Bergin’s unhinged son, The Godfather. His jealousy of Ferris’ good relationship with his father sets him off on a vengeful, double crossing mission of hate. His is a truly repellent yet excellent piece of acting. It’s refreshing to see a movie with such wonderfully agressive performances. Being shouty doesn’t always mean your good, but these guys deliver good level of fear. Very nice to see veterans Denis Lawson (LOCAL HERO) and Rita Tushingham (DR ZHIVAGO) further down the cast list.
The props and set-production are on point and accurate, depicting the world of 1970s early 80s, dusty and dangerous pubs, old cars and big moustaches. The cinematography by Ali Asad is pure gold and is reminiscent of that of the later Conrad Hall (The Road To Perdition). Its the smaller aspects like this that help this sadly average movie along. I say average because you’ll be pushed to find a single thing you’ve never seen elsewhere before. The Wee Man plays it safe to a very well-established audience. Gangster movie viewers need to be challenged like any other audience so why are the films so tame and boring? It’s good to see that it doesn’t sit on its laurels though because you can see there has been a great level of care taken by The Wee Man team to deliver something authentic and a cut above. It doesn’t quite attain greatness and what could have been an epic character study though now comes across as a stunted, over edited story that would have benefitted from a bit more room to breathe. A bit more background and character building would have helped. The opening scenes in particular are troubled with a bad script and a wobbly young actor playing the young Ferris. Once The Wee Man hits its stride though it’s very good but it takes a while. So its no disaster but a near miss is still a miss.
5 out of 10 – Great performances elevate what turns out to be a pretty average true crime story. Good productions values and really nice cinematography also add further points. It’s let down by a stilted script (in the early stages) and a finished product that feels like it got filleted in the editing suite. Its nice to see an old school UK director like Ray Burdis back in the game too.
WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?
- Martin Compston: Scottish Mussell, The Legend of Barney Thompson, Line of Duty (TV), Filth, When The Lights Went Out, 7Lives, Strippers Vs. Werewolves, Four, Ghosted, Piggy, The Disappearance Of Alice Creed, Soulboy, How To Stop Being a Loser, Pimp, True North, The Damned Utd, Doomsday, Red Road, Tickets, Sweet Sixteen
- Patrick Bergin: We Still Steal The Old Way, Age of Kill, Gallowwalkers, Highway To Hell (2012), Strength and Honour, Ella Enchanted, Eye Of The Beholder, The Invisible Circus, Lawnmower Man 2, The Map Of The Human Heart, Patriot Games, Love Crimes, Robin Hood (1991), Highway To Hell (1991), Sleeping With The Enemy, Mountains Of The Moon
- John Hannah: Genesis, Bone In The Throat, Shooting For Socrates, Angel (2015), The Christmas Candle, The Mummy 3, Before You Go, Rebus (TV), The Mummy 2, Circus, The Hurricane, McCallum (TV), Resurrection Man, Sliding Doors, The Mummy, The James Gang, The Innocent Sleep, Madagascar Skin, Four Weddings and a Funeral
- Stephen McCole: The Legend of Barney Thompson, A Lonely Place To Die, Neds, Crying With Laughter, Last Orders, Rushmore,Orphans, The Acid House
- Clare Grogan: Eastenders (TV), Father Ted (TV), Red Dwarf (TV), Gregory’s Girl
- Denis Lawson: The Machine (2014), New Tricks (TV), Broken (2013), Perfect Sense, Holby City (TV), Kit Curran (TV), Return Of The Jedi, Local Hero, The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars- A New Hope
- Rita Tushingham: Outside Bet, Swing (1999), Under The Skin, The Boy From Mercury, An Awfully Big Adventure, Resurrected, Bread (TV), The Leather Boys