Rise of the Footsoldier
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Julian Gilbey
scr Julian Gilbey, Will Gilbey
with Ricci Harnett, Craig Fairbrass, Roland Manookian, Frank Harper, Terry Stone, Billy Murray, Neil Maskell, Ian Virgo, Dave Legeno, Lara Belmont, Brendan Carr, Patrick Regis
release UK 7.Sep.07
07/UK Carnaby 1h59
Rise of the Footsoldier
Trail of destruction: Harnett

fairbrass manookian harper

Rise of the Footsoldier Raw, bristling energy is what keeps us watching this grim British gangster drama. Although in the end the skilful technical style isn't matched by a story or characters we can engage with.

In the mid-1970s, Carlton Leach (Harnett) is one of the toughest football hooligans around, and over the next two decades he graduates to a club bouncer, a lowlife thug and eventually a top gangster. Along the way he marries his girlfriend (Belmont) and has a baby daughter, which doesn't slow his brutal rise through the ranks. But this relationship and his many friendships are casualties of his personal war, leaving him with just handful of hopefully loyal sidekicks. "In my world," he says, "kindness is mistaken for weakness."

Director Gilbey is skilfully captures the forceful action, shooting with an urgency that takes the breath away--fast-paced and relentlessly violent. On the other hand, the screenplay struggles to generate any sympathy; all of these people are vicious brutes indulging in the vilest criminality imaginable. And without at least one character we can identify with, the film isn't easy to watch.

That said, the cast is excellent, delivering committed, full-bodied performances that never cop out when things get nasty. This adds to the uncomfortable feeling that the filmmakers are glamorising this ferocious lifestyle, trying a little to hard to find the nobility in grisly assaults, misogynistic behaviour and drug-fuelled epiphanies. While scenes are shot and edited with real style, they assembled in an episodic and unstructured way, dipping into everything from protection and punishment rackets to boxing clubs, steroid use and gun ownership ("a little insurance, just in case").

In other words, the filmmakers are trying to say too much, which leaves some sequences overwrought (an astonishing chain, machete and axe battle on the London Underground) and others over-familiar (this true story was also the basis for the 2000 thriller Essex Boys). As with last year's Rollin With the Nines, Gilbey demonstrates a terrific sense of kinetic action and strongly unflinching characterisations. If he figures out how to connect these with a broader audience, he could be one of Britain's strongest filmmakers.

cert 18 themes, strong violence, language, sexuality, drugs 23.Jul.07

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Rise of the Footsoldier Dave Brown, Birmingham: 4.5/5 "Watched the entire movie at a preview showing a couple of weeks ago and can't wait for it to go on release so that I can watch it again! Football Factory meets Essex Boys but this one feels 'real'. No glamming it up for the screens; the truth is entertaining enough. Loved the twist at the end; it certainly left me wondering." (4.Sep.07)
2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall