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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Rise of the Footsoldier
Extreme Edition


Starring: Ricci Harnett, Terry Stone and Craig Fairbrass
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 18
Available 24 December 2012

Carlton Leach begins his criminal career as a particularly vicious football thug. His propensity for violence gets him a job as a bouncer and onto the first rungs of Essex gangland. Over the next thirty years his involvement increases to include drugs and even more violence. As bad as Carlton is, his friends are worse and their spiral into drug fuelled excess ends up with them murdered...

Rise of the Footsoldier (2007 - 2 hrs, 09 min, 48 sec) is a crime story directed by Julian Gilby and based on the real life of Carlton Leach, whose three friends were found murdered in what became known as the Rettendon Range Rover murders of 1995. The film has been released before, but this version has more than twenty minutes of extra footage and a re-edit by the director.

Rise of the Footsoldier is a powerful if unpleasant film, which at times is difficult to watch. With no sympathetic characters there is nowhere for the audience to invest their sympathies. For the most part the characters act like viscous animals, murdering without though. The film, however, does not take a moral stance on what they are doing; content merely to show you pain and visceral gore. The film is well made, but it will really be a matter of taste whether you find it entertaining. Personally, while I can appreciate the technical prowess, both from the director and especially the excellent cast, I can’t say watching men behave no better than animals in a film which presents the violence and injuries in an in your face manner is not how I would normally choose to spend two hours of my time.

The film's popularity meant that it became influential in sparking a wave of similar gang related movies, a few were good, most were cheap and terrible, lacking the artistry and acting prowess of the original. I’m pretty sure that the actors are delightful people in real life, but what they bring to the screen is, frankly, terrifying. The outbursts of violence are sudden and convincing; the language remains as violent as the speakers.

The worst, or if you look at it another way, best and most unsettling character is Pat Tate (Craig Fairbrass) who thinks nothing of carving up anybody who gave him the least slight, from carving up pizza shop employees to planning the murder of anyone he thinks has crossed him. Carlton’s friend Terry Tucker (Terry Stone) charts his own downfall, through drugs he descends into a level of violence which even worries Carlton.

Carlton is a slightly strange figure in the film. Played by Ricci Harnett he starts as the central figure of the film, but as Tate and Tucker come to the fore the character of Carlton slowly retreats into being a secondary figure. The first half of the film concentrates on Harnett’s character as he moves from football violence to becoming part of a successful gang. Being based on an actual murder, which did not involve Carlton, shifts the focus of the film, although Harnett is still able to retain audience attention as he, oddly, transforms himself into the more reasonable gangster, slightly disgusted at the behaviour of the others.

Gilby is at pains to point out that this is not a director’s cut, as he was pleased with the original release; instead it has given him a chance to revisit the material with five years more experience as a director and editor. Although the film has been extended it never feels forced, the tempo is kept at fever pitch.

The print has done well over the last five years and although the material remains period the film has aged well. You get a choice of either a 5.1 Dolby Digital or 2.0 Stereo audio mixes, with optional subtitles. There is a full length commentary with the director and actor Terry Stone, if you like the film it’s worth a listen. The only extra is a short interview (6 min, 52 sec) with the director.

The film is uncompromising and violent, far superior to the many imitators which followed. If you can endure the assault on your senses there is much to admire in the film, if not the people it portrays.


Charles Packer

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