HonkWatch #081: Rise Of The Footsoldier

Andy Riot (Rhys Williams) coughs up under interrogation from ‘truth serum’ wielding Turkish gangsters in the Gilbey brothers’ not-too-shabby hooligan/gangster flick Rise Of The Footsoldier.

For all my pre-viewing concerns that it would be another slice of post-Ritchie Britflick gangster wankery, I actually thought it was alright; I suspect that the IMDb rating (6.9) is about right. It’s fairly proficiently made, though the camerawork is a little too kinetic all of the time in the first half for my taste.

On the other hand, too much has been crammed into it. There’s football hooliganism from the late seventies into the dawn of the nineties, taking in Bill Gardner, the ICF and the police crackdown; then running doors from sticky-floored niteklubs into ye birthe of acide house; involvement in ‘security’, ‘protection’ and then ‘distribution’ work; then into the whole Essex clubs/drugs nexus, leading up to the Rettendon murders. There’s too much going on that should have been dealt with at the script stage.

Still, there are some strikingly detailed touches along the way – the answerphone messages during the period between the first news of the murders and the identities of the dead men being revealed, and the disfigured corpses – which appear to have been developed out of the original court evidence.

However, the film does seem to attribute to Leach more influence and importance than he actually had. It also seems to conflate his experiences with those of others. For example, his original meeting with Craig Rolfe sounds very similar to an incident related by (head of security at Raquel’s nightclub/Tucker associate) Bernard O’ Mahoney. The car destruction scene also sounds like an event O’ Mahoney claims to have orchestrated. There are several more such instances.

Stepping back from the film – which I found visceral and watchable – I do wonder why it is hung around Leach. For the first hour, Leach is clearly at the centre of the events being portrayed, yet for most of the ‘Essex Boys’ narrative which fills up the rest of the movie, it’s all about what Tucker, Tate and Rolfe do (and what is done to them); Leach doesn’t really figure in it.

Cast-wise there’s not much for women to do in it, sadly (for all the problems with ID and The Firm, at least Claire Skinner and Lesley Manville were given a little more meat to work with) – wives and whores all, either serving as chattels to big, meatheaded men, or else rending their garments over the battered, broken or lifeless bodies of their menfolk. But the men in it do look and sound like the sorts of people they are playing. Ricci Narnett (one of the scary soldiers from 28 Days Later) does well as Leach (though the part is perhaps written too much as a ‘hero’ of sorts), whilst Terry Stone, Craig Fairbrass and Roland Manookian are enthusiastic as Tucker, Tate and Rolfe. The Tucker hair looks just like the photos, too!

There are definitely too many moments when things descend into pointless musical montage, and the voiceover narration doesn’t help hide that the structure of the film is confused and bloated; but overall, though, a fairly decent flick. Better than Essex Boys and Green Street, and not as idolatrous of violence and violent people as Guy Ritchie.

PS It has both Frank Harper and Billy Murray (who also produced) in it 🙂

PPS After being mildly impressed by ROTF, I checked out the earlier Gilbey feature, Rollin’ With The Nines. Despite sharing many of the cast and crew, it was just awful.

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