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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Rise of the Footsoldier


Starring: Ricci Harnett, Terry Stone and Craig Fairbrass
Optimum Home Entertainment
RRP: £24.99
Certificate: 18
Available 15 September 2008

Over a thirty year period Carlton Leach rose from being a footsoldier in a football hooligan gang known as the ICF (Inter City Firm) to a bouncer, finally graduating in his criminal career to become a gangster. This reign of mindless violence came to an abrupt halt with  the slaying of three members of his gang - Tony Tucker, Pat Tate and Craig Rolf - in the infamous Rettendon Range Rover triple slayings in 1995...

Rise of the Footsoldier (2007 - 1 hr, 58 min) was directed by Julian Gilbey (Reckoning Day, Rollin’ With The Nines), co-written by Will Gilbey from an adaptation of Carlton’s own biographical novel.

It is hard to know who Gilbey thought would want to watch this film as it consists of almost two hours of unrelenting violence enacted by some of the most unsympathetic characters committed to celluloid. In a world of random stabbings, shootings and wife beatings Carlton is our supposed hero and moral compass, but even here the time and effort is not taken for us to get under his skin, to care about his relationships or motivations. He is presented as a small time thug who succeeds in becoming a big time thug.

Without a doubt the film is the most violent story since The Football Factory (2004), but it lacks the balancing humour of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), or the scarier character study in the implied maniacal performances of Malcolm McDowell and Paul Bettany in Gangster No1 (2000), so missing either the wit of the former of the style of the latter Gilbey has provided little more than a misogynistic violence-fest, which may well reflect the true nature of these peoples lives, but does not make the film any more viewable.

I am willing to accepted that it is my middle class sensibilities which have been challenged here, I kept thinking that nobody could live their lives like that when plainly they do. This is violence without the trimmings, so maybe it says more about me as a reviewer that I would prefer my violence nicely packaged, when the violence depicted in the film is probably more like the real thing - mindless revolting and difficult to watch. It gives you less the feeling of being a voyeur on events and more a feeling of complicity, which leaves you feeling somehow soiled at the end. This is an ugly film, but maybe that is the point, real violence is ugly.

The film is packed wall to wall with hard men; Ricci Harnett (Carlton Leech) does what he can to round out his character, Carlton is obviously an intelligent man, but not enough time was devoted to motivation. Was this lifestyle a personal choice or one driven by social necessity? His gang fare even worse leaving the audience to deal with two dimensional characters who appear to have a limited number of facial expressions - two hours of moody brooding men can become a little wearing.

Audio is either 5.1 or DTS-HD Master Audio. Obviously, for a film with such a dynamic range, go for the DTS if your system supports it. The film contains no subtitles. The 1080p 1.85:1 picture is great, alternating between the hand-held documentary style, for the football fight scenes, to more traditionally framed scenes.

The disc is supplied with a good set of extras. First up is a full length audio commentary from Julian Gilbey and William Gilbey which has many insights into the film. Next up is a set of Making of (1 hr, 17 min, 31 sec) features which looks at every aspect of the films creation; there’s a short interview with the real Carlton Leach (21 min, 31 sec) who bizarrely looks less hard than the actor playing him; twenty-six extended or deleted scenes (29 min, 32 sec); and five audition reels (20 min, 53 sec).

Rounding off the extras are the Outtakes (18 min, 2 sec) which adds back into the film some of the humour it was so missing. If they had smiled and laughed more in the main feature their acts of violence would have been even more harrowing. Lastly you have the trailer (1 min, 40 sec) and a stills gallery.

Although the disc is packed to the rafters with great extras it cannot disguise the fact that the film is a flawed creation. Its lack of contrast in its character portrayals leaves little room for the actors to humanise the people they are playing, unfortunately leaving them feeling pretty two dimensional.


Charles Packer

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