The violent past of onetime Glasgow gangster Paul Ferris yields a banal biopic in “The Wee Man,” returning multihyphenate Ray Burdis (“Love, Honor and Obey”) to the director’s chair after an absence of 13 years. This highly sympathetic and thus controversial portrait of the ruthless enforcer fillets selectively from Ferris’ own memoir, depicting a bullied child and affable teen goaded into standing up to psychotic local thugs. Stabbings, gougings and brutal slayings have proved tasty fare for bloodthirsty Scottish genre fans, delivering a surprise £239,000 ($376,000) in 10 days.The casting of genial presence Martin Compston helps render the adult Ferris a sympathetic protag, as he rises up the ranks loyal to the local godfather (Patrick Bergin), before falling foul of the kingpin’s jealous son (a vivid Stephen McCole) and a duplicitous rival player (John Hannah). The subtext-light script aggressively steers audience sympathies through a well-signposted morality tale, but there’s little of distinction to appeal beyond Scotland’s borders. Tech credits are adequate, although London’s East End stands in for authentic Glasgow locations, reportedly necessitated by uncooperative local authorities.
A Carnaby Films release of a Carnaby Intl. Prods. presentation in association with Wee Man Prods., VTR Media Investments. (International sales: Genesis Film Sales, London.) Produced by Michael Loveday. Executive producers, Shail Shah, Billy Murray. Co-producers, Andrew Loveday, Terry Loveday. Directed, written by Ray Burdis.
Camera (color, widescreen, HD) Ali Asad; editor, William Gilbey; music, John Beckett; production designers, Belinda Cusmano, Alice Norris; set decorator, Dominic Smithers; costume designer, Hayley Nebauer; sound (Dolby Digital), Mario Mooney; re-recording mixers, Richard Lewis, Steve Parker; special effects, Scott McIntyre; visual effects supervisor, Hasraf Dulull; stunt coordinator, Rocky Taylor; line producer, Gerry Toomey; assistant director, Dan Mumford; casting, Steve Daly, Julie Dunne. Reviewed on DVD, London, Feb. 1, 2013. Running time: 106 MIN.
Martin Compston, John Hannah, Patrick Bergin, Stephen McCole, Laura McMonagle, Denis Lawson, Clare Grogan, Daniel Kerr, Rita Tushingham.