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A game of two halves
Rise Of The Footsoldier (DVD)
Member Name: Jojoborne
Rise Of The Footsoldier (DVD)
Advantages: Good direction and cinematography. Some solid acting.
Disadvantages: Loses its way plot wise and too violent for some.
Rise of the Footsoldier
I titled this a game of two halves, not just because it starts off as a movie about a football hooligan who ventures into gangland crime but because it is a movie that goes off on a tangent without any real rhyme or reason.
As I said it starts off as a movie about football violence, which centres on the younger life of Carlton Leach (played by Ricci Harnett) who was a member of West Ham Utd's infamous I.C.F crew or to give it its proper title 'The Inter City Firm'.
We are treated to a few 'tear ups' between West Ham and Fulham and West Ham and Arsenal. Also included are two legendary stories of fights between West Ham and Millwall on the underground and West Ham and Manchester Utd in a rough Manchester suburb.
I know of these stories as I have read a number of books on them and the stories in the movie ring true. In Cass Pennants 'Cass' and another of his books 'Congratulations You Have Just Met the Famous I.C.F', the same stories appear. In many of the other books about the I.C.F, they also get a mention.
The movie does make a point of mentioning Bill Gardner, who was the self-confessed leader of the original West Ham Utd mob and later the I.C.F. For some reason he is portrayed in the movie like a bloke from a seventies soft porn movie, which I am sure many of the former I.C.F lads had a good laugh at when they saw it. I bet Bill wasn't too pleased though.
As you would expect of a British movie about hooliganism and organised crime, this film features most of the genre actors who most of you will be familiar with.
The movie is essentially about Carlton leach but the bigger plot line is about the deaths of Anthony Tucker, Patrick Tate and Craig Rolfe, who were murdered in a Range Rover in Workhouse Lane, Rettenden, Essex on 6th December 1995. On 20th January 1998 Jack Whomes and Michael Steele were found guilty of their murders and sentenced to triple-life sentences, one for each of the murders. They protest their innocence to this day. They were found guilty because of a witness statement by Darren Nichols. Nichols is now living under witness protection and has never been tracked down. He was a thief and a known liar as well as a self-confessed teller of tall tales. Whomes and Steele say he lied about them being the ones who murdered the three men and many people believe them to be innocent. Perhaps we will never know the real story and the only ones who could tell the truth are the three dead men. Carlton Leach was best friends with Anthony Tucker.
My only criticism is that when it turns into the story about the three murder victims that Carlton Leach is swept aside and after being the lead for most of the movie you almost feels like he has been ditched and another movie has started. Once it gets into the story about the three murdered men it is Ok but it really does take the long route to get there and doesn't focus on the characters enough for you to care enough about them or what happens to them.
That aside, this is a well-made movie, with some good acting performances. The direction is assured and the cinematography crisp. It is just a shame that the way the script has been structured made it hard, for me at least, to feel like I could invest too much in it.
The film follows Carlton Leach who rose from a teenager fighting on the terraces at Upton Park to one of the most feared generals of the football terraces before becoming a member of a notorious gang of criminals who bullied their way through London and Essex in the late eighties and early nineties. Leach was feared on the terraces and when the laws were tightened he got into the bouncing game. He would run protection for drug deals, making sure they were carried out without a hitch. This led to him running raves and all-nighters as a way of raking in the money before eventually moving onto heavier drugs himself and mixing with more hardened criminals. The story reflects on three decades of Leach's life and culminates in the murder of one of best friends and two of his associates.
I have already touched on my general feelings about the movie so here I will talk about some of the acting and actors involved and the director, Julian Gilbey.
Gilbey is known for 'Rolling With the Nines' and 'Doghouse'. I watched Doghouse a few nights ago and can't even bring myself to review it, it was that bad. Saying that though, I did enjoy his latest film 'A Lonely Place to Die'. Gilbey does have a very distinct style of direction and I must say that he knows what he is doing. The direction on this movie belies the fact that he has only made a few films. He is however, a Bafta winning director for his movie direction on 'Rolling With the Nines' and is also an editor and screen writer.
This is due in no small way to the cinematography of Ali Hasad who also worked on Doghouse and SA Lonely Place to Die.
The film does pace nicely until the switch in story when it becomes a bit mish-mashed and leaves you wondering who you are supposed to be following now.
The films budget was four million and it only managed to recoup one hundred and seventy thousand at the box office, with over half that being in the opening weekend.
The soundtrack to the movie is rather good and I wouldn't mind picking it up on the cheap. It features some great British bands and some great music including 'Sham 69', whom, if you are a West Ham fan, you will know are big Hammers fans. 'The Groundhogs', 'The River' and 'Guy Called Gerald' also feature. The original score by Sandy McClelland and Ross Cullum is also available across the net and in all good record shops on the River Media Group label. It contains twenty-five tracks and a bonus track.
Ricci Harnett plays Carlton Leach and he plays it well, although the narration did grate on me a little after a while as the cockney slang expletive grew a little tiring.
The film opens with said narration with the lines 'It was the end of an era. But before the murders, the torture, the beatings and the ecstasy... before all of that, there was football. You see, football was where all the spite and the hatred first came from. On those terraces... well, it's where it all began for me.'
Most of these actors have starred in a handful of these British genre films and Harnett is no different. He played a cop in 'The Rise of the White Collar Hooligan' and he is probably most famous for his role in '28 days Later' as 'Mitchell'.
Billy Murray makes his umpteenth gang member appearance. You will know him from his days in Eastenders as Johnny Allen (as a gangster of course) and from his earlier career as Don Beech in ITV's 'The Bill'. He plays Michael Steele, one of the accused murderers in the film.
Craig Fairbrass is an actor I have never took to, or to be fairer an actor whose characters I have never liked. That must be a certain testament to his skill as you are not meant to like most of the characters I have played. He didn't disappoint me in this as I hated him. He played one of the gangsters who are eventually murdered, Patrick Tate and if he was anything like Fairbrass' portrayal of him then I would've give him a wide berth.
Frank Harper, who has starred in numerous hooligan movies makes an appearance again as Jack Whomes, one of the men accused of murder. It is quite a played-down role for Harper who is usually the mouthy cockney at the forefront of most gangs.
Neil Maskell has broken into this group of actors over the last few years and has starred in 'Kill List' and played small parts in many other movies in this genre. I must admit I am not really a fan of his either but fair play to him for breaking into acting.
Roland Manookian is another who has been in a handful of films across the genre and he plays Craig Rolfe, who was the third murder victim.
Overall I would recommend it to fans of the genre but as a film to watch for entertainment I would suggest that mainstream viewers would find it a hard slog.
It is a violent movie and is an eighteen certificate due to strong bloody/brutal violence, torture and language throughout, drug use, sexuality, and some graphic nudity.
The 2 Disc edition DVD can be brought from many sites on the internet for between two and nine pounds and includes Special Features of deleted scenes, feature commentaries and interviews with cast and crew.
I would rate the movie three out of five stars.
Summary: A football thug makes his way up the ranks in criminal circles.