Movie Review: The Fall of the Essex Boys
The Fall of the Essex Boys takes us back to Rettingdon for another take on the triple murder of drug dealers. It may sound very familiar but, for once, it isn’t. It isn’t a standard British gangster flick that glamorises the murderers, the drug lords, the psychopaths, but instead shows them in the light they truly deserve, showing you the dark, dirty-handed ways that they didn’t even think was wrong nor care about. They were dirty psychopaths that would injure, hurt or kill anyone to get what they wanted without even a hesitation. A generation so disturbing that one of them stabs a man for flirting with his girlfriend. A truly scary look into the thoughts of some of the most messed up people that could roam around freely, causing as much havoc as possible.
Although it’s the same story: three murders of drug dealers in a Range Rover during an impending drug deal. There’s also the arrest of the two others involved and the leak but beyond these Essex Boys, we visit the investigators who are searching to arrest them for more than assault. Although it starts off with them outcrafting the police, it soon seems that their case is being followed closely by a couple of investigators, mostly family man Phil Stone (Ewan Ross) who continues to pursue the boys. They’re all psychopaths, except for Nick Nevern‘s Darren Nicholls, who plays a man pumped by adrenaline but ruined by the guilt in the more layered role; the first time a script has given him more than the bravado of a thug saving himself. In this, it’s a man who can’t bear to watch the bodies pile up around him.
A real surprise is Peter Barrett’s Pat Tate who is quite scary although a bit one dimensional. He’s literally a psychopath who has a God-complex and a hatred for almost everyone. Even his girlfriend Karen (Kierston Wareing) flees to the arms of fellow mentalist Mickey (Robert Cavanah) which is a direct swap of lunacy for lunacy – though the latter may be a bit more tame at times. These characters all embark on a high of untouchable glory until all is undone by a bad shipment of ecstasy which claims the life of a teenage girl. This is where the story starts to unravel and stop glamorising the previous Adonises that stood before. Instead, they’re now horrible people willing to get tied up in any illegality to get their point across, even doing anything to anyone – many victims are needless but that doesn’t stop them.
When it gets gritty and less Ocean’s Eleven like the opening sequence, it turns into classic gritty British gangster drama heavy on the swearing, violence and nudity, oh and drugs; but the characters lack charm, intelligence and class – on purpose, by the by. These are puerile, vile people that quite frankly need these negative ideas given to them as a refreshing hatred for the disrespectful. Idolising these people is not the way to go which is where other Rettingdon films have failed. Sometimes the scenery and detail makes you forget this is a very small British indie film. The pacing is pretty well timed too, never feeling drawn out in the later stages. A small problem is the implant of Phil Stone’s scenes with his daughter. They feel too reaching, almost manipulative in the film.
Paul Tanter’s work on the whole is pretty good with even some ambitious title credits as the speedy pacing of the film is interjected at moments of sentimentality. These moments slow it down to ground it emotionally but feel reaching instead. Another problem involves moments where you see the hooligans punching each other silly simply to punch home the idea that hooliganism and crime are linked. It’s true, they are, but one input of this is enough. Some of the characters, although factual, are there purely for the wrong reasons. Mickey and Karen’s affair is there to add to how dangerous of a character Pat Tate is and some gratuitous nudity to the proceedings – the strip club feels like that too. The music is sometimes too much but sometimes perfect so you win some and you lose some.
Although it suffers from sometimes clichéd archetypes, dialogue and story, it still manages to rejuvenate a somewhat stagnant genre filled with directors spending the entire budget on violence and nudity with nothing else adding to the mix. This, although sometimes host to some of these, doesn’t suffer from the problem as much. Its fresh take on an old Brit tale is surprisingly enjoyable and the problems don’t stop it from being an impressive watch at times. The acting is sometimes questionable – thankfully not from the leads but some of the smaller roles – there’s still a nice realism to the film that pulls you in. One of the better Brit gangster flicks to come out since Guy Ritchie dominated the genre and that’s not an exaggeration.
The Fall of the Essex Boys is out in cinemas 8th February 2013 and on DVD from 18th February, 2013.