Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I’ll say one thing that British gangster movies do better than American gangster movies and that is after watching a British gangster flick, it seriously makes you question any desire you might have ever had abut being a criminal. None of the fine trappings of the gangster life are ever glossed over such as the money, cars, women and glitz, but the Brits seem to be much more effective at detailing the underpinnings of the pure and raw brutality of The Life than we do over here. After I’ve finished watching an American gangster movie, whether it was loved or hated, and despite the conclusion of said movie, there is often still some slight glimmer of the shine of glorification left behind. After watching Julian Gibley’s ‘Rise of the Footsoldier’, it stripped all that garbage away leaving behind only the carnage. Only ‘Menace 2 Society’ has ever left me with a feeling of dread similar to the one I had after watching ‘Rise of the Footsoldier’, only this was worse.

Ricci Hartnett narrates our film and assumes the role of its central character Carlton Leach. Though the film actually begins showing us three dead men lying on cold metal morgue slabs with varying degrees of gunshots to the head, Carlton has to inform us, in this story that is based on true events, how it came to this. Leach it would seem was genetically bred to be a thug, and in the films incredibly frenetic first twenty minutes, Leach outlines his life as an East Side football thug and how he and his crew spent the majority of their time in the mid 1970’s cracking heads and being overall bad citizens. Leach and his crew had kicked so much ass so brutally and so often that he even started and organization called the ‘Inner City Firm (ICF)’ where he and his boys were a street gang for hire busting up whoever needed busting up and sticking an ICF business card in the bustees mouth. Things changed for Leach, more or less, when he took an ax to the skull, coupled with the Bobbies putting away thuggish footballers like himself with extensive jail terms.

Leach manages to avoid jail and snag a gig as doorman at a posh London pub, and believe me when I tell you if this doorman said you can’t come in, just go on home lest you catch a metal pipe to the back of the head or shank to the buttock. Again, so effective Leach was at crowd control he brought in some his football mates and extended their services to all kinds of criminal activity from collections, torturing suspected thieves, accompanying drug deals, or whatever they could do get some loot. As tends to happen in situations involving violent people and drugs, some drugs go missing and things get real violent real quick which in turn sets in motions various stages in Leach’s life, from his acquaintance with his good friend gangster Tony Tucker (Terry Stone), who in turn introduces Leach to the incredibly unstable hoodlum Pat Tate (Craig Fairbass). Eventually one crooked deal leads to another crooked deal which takes us full circle to those three dead cats lying on metal slabs in the morgue and the situation that led their unfortunate demise.

‘Rise of the Footsoldier’ is an very ‘busy’ movie with Director Gibley, along with his co-writer and brother Will Gibley doing their darndest to stuff as much information over this twenty year span of British criminal history as they could humanly manage within the films 100 or so minutes of running time. There are riots, tortures, two marriages, three children, executions, rave parties, steroid use, roid rage, more tortures, suicide, gangland slayings, conspiracy theories, more rave parties, ecstasy use and more that I’m sure is slipping my memory right now even though I just finished watching the movie a few hours ago. Though ‘Rise of the Footsoldier’ may have benefited some from Gibley reigning in some of these various elements of the film, I can’t say that the movie was ever out of control and amazingly, amidst the all of the chaos that was ‘Rise of the Footsoldier’, the movie was remarkably focused. Some of the credit for this controlled chaos belongs to Ricci Harnett who as an actor never allowed the chaos to get too far away from his central character as all of the action and situations flowed through him, and his portrayal of Carlton Leach from loose cannon to slightly less of a loose cannon was pivotal to the success of this film. All of the actors did a fine job of forcing along this rather chaotic narrative, though they were fairly one-dimensional with that one dimension being that they were all borderline insane. Patrick Regis as Leach’s good mate Eddie did bring a little more to the table as far as adding texture to his particular character, but we would be lying to you if we told you we didn’t absolutely love Craig Fairbass as the singularly one dimensional ball anger and hatred Pat Tate. Not since the afore mentioned ‘Menace 2 Society’ and Larenz Tate’s O-dog have I seen a character who existed for the sole reason to cause as much unprovoked pain to as many people as possible as Pat Tate.

‘Rise of the Footsoldier’ isn’t a perfect movie as it is truly chaotic, no matter how controlled it may be, and it doesn’t offer a hell of a lot of depth or understanding for the majority of characters. Whatever. It was brutal, violent, harsh and criminally frightening entertainment which reminded me yet again why I tend to follow the speed limit and make complete stops at stop signs.

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