Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Waitaminute… haven’t I seen this movie before? Why yes I have seen this movie before when it was called ‘Rise of the Footsoldier’. Apparently the 1995 Rettendon Range Rover murders are a big deal in British gangster lore since this is the third such movie about these thugs. Kind of like Al Capone and the Valentine’s Day Massacre. I didn’t get a chance to see ‘Essex Boys’, the first film to center around those murders, but I did see ‘Rise of the Footsoldier’ which was hectic, frenetic, hyper violent and a film I ultimately enjoyed. This movie ‘Bonded by Blood’ is a little different as Sacha Bennett attempts to humanize the goons in his movie were in ‘Footsoldier’ these same goons were portrayed as over the top, crazed, loose cannons destined for a bullet to the brain. It’s close but I would say the less ambitious ‘Rise of the Footsoldier’ works a little better.

Like ‘Footsoldier’ this film is narrated by a bystanding goon in Darren Nichols (Adam Deacon). This narrative choice was a little odd because even though Darren Nichols

had a lot to do with the end result of this movie, he had very little to do with the rise of the goons and the conflict between the goons which is what ninety percent of this is about. In prison Darren made the acquaintance of professional criminals Mickey Steele (Vincent Regan) and Pat Tate (Tamer Hassan)… two mighty rotten dudes though Pat Tate, by far, is the worst of the bunch. After I eventually adjusted to the version of the English language used in the movie I figured out that our two bad dudes have a post prison plan. Mickey knows how to bring in the drugs and Pat knows how to distribute them with Darren falling under Mickey’s umbrella of criminal activity.

Pat’s distribution plan has a head start as his boy Tony Tucker (Terry Stone – again) already has a low level distribution pipeline snaking throughout the London nightclub scene. So everybody’s out of prison, Mickey, along with his right hand man Jack Whomes (Dave Legano), brings in the drugs. Tony and his right hand man Craig Wolfe (Neil Maskell) keeps the drugs flowing and keeps everyone in line with a steel fist. Pat Tate for his part is just off his rocker.

The trouble starts when the drugs Mickey is bringing in starts killing people. That’s not good business. This little bit of nastiness angers Pat and frightens Tony who through a series of not very complicated rationalizations have come to conclusion that they need to take Mickey out. Mickey assumed it would come to this and alerts his crew, which for some reason includes Darren, that they need be proactive and strike first. Mickey sort of left out the part that he was doing Pat’s wife and Pat being dead would make his life a helluva lot easier. Completely forgot to mention that.

Well, there are three movies about this so I know how this ends and know we also know why this film opened up with a scene featuring Mickey Steele and Jack Whomes filling Darren Nichols chest with a bunch of hot shotgun lead.

Rise of the Footsoldier’ was hectic and chaotic but it was oddly focused in on the story it had to tell. ‘Bonded by Blood’ on the other hand is a film that moves slower and is more deliberate, but its narrative is much less focused than that of ‘Footsoldier’. This movie was like the hunting autofocus on a cheap camcorder in that it never seemed to be able to lock in on anything. There was certainly an erratic flow to the narrative, especially at the start since the editing jumped us from prison to night club to swimming pool to prison yard to snorting cocaine and it did this sharply and abruptly, and I’m not sure to what end why this was done. Suddenly our thugs are out of prison, they’re selling drugs, Pat Tate is abusing his wife, Mickey Steele is doing his wife, Pat Tate is pissing on a guy and then Darren would show up again to let us know that none of this is going to end happily. Again, there’s really nothing to focus on here. Even the attempts of humanizing our characters, letting us know that they are men with families, was done right before their unavoidable end, stuck on as if the filmmakers were thinking ‘Damn, we have to humanize these cats because we have Darren telling us that they are family men. Show him having breakfast with his kid.’ Crazy, out of control, adulterous murderous psychos are now human. Or not.

However, with all of that being said, the movie still manages to be entertaining. It is a British Gangster flick and it takes full advantage of this. While Tamer Hassan probably has to take a back seat to the overall chaotic mayhem that Craig Fairbass brought to the role of Pat Tate, Hassan is still fun to watch at work. Vincent Regan is a fabulous actor who can do bad just about as well as anyone, check out ‘The Big I Am’ for the penultimate Vincent Regan, but he was just a flat psycho in that movie, where in this movie he was a multi-layered, complex psycho. The movie certainly isn’t dull and Bennett does keep it moving.

However ‘Bonded by Blood’ is erratic, shaky and it does lack focus. It’s probably not going to go down as one of the better British Gangster films but it still does have some entertainment value working for it.

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