Rise Of The Footsoldier

Rise Of The Footsoldier


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

In December 1995, the bodies of Pat Tate, Tony Tucker and Craig Rolfe, all notorious figures in London's gangland, were found in a Range Rover on a snowy country road. They were riddled with bullets. Though two men were eventually convicted of their murder, the real story behind it has remained the subject of speculation, and it was previously treated in film in the Sean Bean thriller Essex Boys.

Rise Of The Footsoldier takes a slightly different perspective, basing itself on the memoirs of former thug for hire and sometime gang lieutenant Carlton Leach. As well as providing background to the murders, it supplies a string of anecdotes about the London underworld which comprise a loose account of Leach's own rise to power and his gradual understanding of the horror of the world in which he operated.

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Beginning with Leach's experiences as a football hooligan, Rise Of The Footsoldier embarks on a visual assault comprising the most consistently violent images you will see on the big screen this year. Forget horror movies - this is real, visceral, eminently imitable violence of the sort which takes place on British streets every drunken weekend but which is, for the most part, blessedly hidden from the eyes of the public. It's an unrepentant attempt to shock the viewer into sitting up and taking notice, though in time it also has a numbing effect - which is, of course, entirely appropriate, because this is how it enables us to get into the mindset of its protagonists. As such, it is much more honest than most urban crime stories.

Here even the most charming of villains are shown in full-on nastiness and there's no room for the illusion that they're really nice guys for whom we ought to feel sympathy because they love their dear old mums. When we start to identify with them anyway, this forces us to ask questions about ourselves. It's an uncomfortable film, and rightly so. That said, when we step back from the violence, does Rise Of The Footsoldier have anything else to offer?

Ultimately, violence aside, there's not a whole lot to this story, and once viewers have time to catch their breath and realise this they'll find that it starts to drag. Ricci Harnett makes a charismatic narrator and turns in a surprisingly affecting performance as Leach, but when he's absent there's little to hold our attention. Although there's some good solid acting from a cast largely borrowed from Eastenders, they never make us care as much as we should about the murdered men or the mystery relating to them.

Director Julian Gilbey can certainly deliver a punch, but he seems to have mistaken shock for real emotional impact. This is an excellent attempt to bring something new to the crime genre. Those who can stomach it will find it genuinely thrilling and disturbing. In the end, though, it never quite delivers on its promise.

Reviewed on: 01 Sep 2007
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The brutal true story of a London gangster.
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Director: Julian Gilbey

Writer: Julian Gilbey, Will Gilbey

Starring: Ricci Harnett, Terry Stone, Craig Fairbrass, Roland Manookian, Frank Harper, Billy Murray, Neil Maskell, Ian Virgo, Emily Beecham

Year: 2007

Runtime: 108 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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