Gangster movies always seem to be popular, whether it be the American style film like The Godfather, Goodfellas or Scarface that almost romanticise the world of organised crime, or the British style which its emphasis on the cheeky “cockney” feel with a reliance on heavy levels of violence or then there is the style that takes the route of the football hooligan led into the world of organised crime as an extension of the violent world they live in. Rise of the Footsoldier The Extreme Extended Edition is one that looks at the progression from hooliganism; where Guy Richie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels gave us the romantic, comic feel Rise of the Footsoldier looks for the bleaker side with more of a focus on the violence, creating a much different result.
Rise of the Footsoldier tells the story of Carlton Leach, a football hooligan who grew tired of that world, building up his own little empire which stemmed from first just being a bouncer at local clubs, then rose to protection and drugs taking advantage of the rise of ecstasy and the “rave scene”. His rise to power made him both friends and enemies, with his most noticeable relationship being with Tony Tucker, Pat Tate and Craig Rolfe also known as the Essex Boys. The story looks at the build up to the Essex Boys murders and how Cartlon Leach was affected by it.
The murder of the Essex Boys, or as it’s also know the Range Rover murders is a story that seems to intrigue film makers, especially in the United Kingdom. This is shown by the fact that not only Rise of the Footsoldier but also Essex Boys(2000), and soon to be released The Fall of the Essex Boys use the events as a basis for their plot. This fact is probably that there is a lack of 100% proof of what actually happened that night leaving it of course open to interpretation by the film makers. Whatever the truth though the story is dark and in the case of Rise of the Footsoldier we are given a view of a world that is obnoxious full of violence and few if any redeemable characters, never hiding the facts of drug abuse that at times seem quite outlandish in the world of the thugs. This was the view people had of the characters though be it the truth or hyped up in a fictional way.
If I was to say that Rise of the Footsoldier is quite an obnoxious film it would probably sound negative but in truth it’s not. Especially in this Extreme Extended Edition we are given a version of events that is high on the violence quota, high on the drugs and high on the sex. Watching the interview with director and co-writer Julian Gilbey you understand that this was the point he was trying to bring across though, that we see the events from the perspective of people who weren’t nice, these are not anti-heroes, they are often psychotic, violent and many times their actions are fuelled by heavy drug use in the form of not only the likes of cocaine but steroids. It’s an in your face style where these people don’t care what anybody thinks of them they take what they want and if they don’t get it people will end up either badly beaten or dead. The very nature of the story makes it believable that this was what led to the violence that befell the Essex Boys in the end, as the saying goes “you reap what you sow”. It should be noted of course that this is only one interpretation of the events, it is in the end a fictional account.
The acting in Rise of the Footsoldier at times is quite hit and miss at times, some scenes lack the power that is required but there are certain actors who do rise to the occasion to instil their characters with just the right amount of malice. Craig Fairbrass for example as Pat Tate creates a detestable character and probably the most psychopathic of them all. He’s all about arrogance and violence which Fairbrass is able to believably portray in the character he creates. Roland Manookian’s Craig Rolfe in contrast is a weasely little character who is quite a hanger on, he’s written as the loser of the story and the one to create the problems, Manookian portrays him in a way that makes you dislike him which is of course the point. Ricci Harnett as Carlton Leach and Terry Stone as Tony Tucker in contrast are probably the two actors who manage to create characters who do have some redeemable qualities. Though portraying the two men as aggressive and arrogant they still manage to show a believable element of intelligence with realisations that they see they need to get out of the situations they have put themselves in and at least attempt to get out before it’s too late, though even they are hard to like. Of course Kudos has to be given to actors such as Billy Murray, Jason Maza and Neil Maskell who give reliable performances and are instantly recognisable in the roles they play. These are roles that are typical for them, especially Billy Murray who with a role in Essex Boys has quite a pedigree when it comes to this tale.
The new Extreme Edition also comes with special features including interviews with the director and Carlton Leach. One of the most interesting is the new commentary done for the cut with Julian Gilbey and Terry Stone which gives an insight into what has changed between versions and lots of reminiscing of the making of the film. For people interested into film making Gilbey talks quite in depth about how he re-edited the new cut to improve the action scenes.
Rise of the Footsoldier is a film that I always find to be hit and miss, it does fit into that typical British Gangster movie genre and has a story to tell which is both interesting and entertaining, if also disturbing. As Julian Gilbey says in his interview included in the special features it’s not a film for everybody but it’s one that does have its role to play in both his filmography and the genre it’s based in. I will admit to liking it, but especially in this extreme edition it does rely on violence a little too much which damages its impact to some degree, the characters can be a little bit too one dimensional at times and as mentioned this tends to make scenes less effective. If anything it can still sit with the likes of The Football Factory and Essex Boys as a more gritty style of gangster/hooliganism film and arguably one of the better ones.
Rise of the Footsoldier The Extreme Edition is released 24th December on Double Play Steelbook (DVD and Blu-ray) courtesy of StudioCanal