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Rise of the Footsoldier


Stars: Ricci Harnett, Terry Stone, Craig Fairbrass, Coralie Rose, Frank Harper, Billy Murray, Lara Belmont

Director: Julian Gilbey

1975 to 1996: Essex football hooligan Carlton Leach (Harnett) progresses to nightclub bouncer, then to drugs and protection rachets. Face contorted and crazed in his viciousness as he beats to a pulp all those who stand in his way, Carlton is still considered 'fair' and 'loyal' by his gangster colleagues, notably drug-riddled club owner Tony (Stone) and maddog ex-jailbird Pat (Fairbrass).

These are the last guys in the world you'd want to find outside your front door bearing baseball bats.

While all the elements of an exploitative Brit gangster flick are here - a cascade of blood and four-letter words, nude girls with big breasts, drugs galore and chilling violence - the first half of the film is pretty good, relating Carlton's progress up the underworld almost in Little Caesar fashion.

His first wife (Belmont) leaves him, tired of the beatings and infidelities and his dependence on the steroids that fire his rage as well as his muscles. The second (Rose), despite similar treatment, sticks around; this is a true story and they're still together today.

Unfortunately, the film loses focus and goes off the boil in the second half, sidelining Carlton for periods and getting bogged down far too long on various accounts and aspects of the gangland massacre that virtually climaxes the film. But the camaraderie between these brutal thugs is intelligently expressed and performances are well-hard in the Brit crime tradition.

The script is only marred by occasional bursts of flowery dialogue - 'Silence fell on gangland' - and odd gaffes: 'It was the first round of the Cup and we (West Ham) played Fulham'. Don't think the Hammers have had to to play in the first round since World War Two.

David Quinlan

UK 2007. UK Distributor: Optimum. Colour by Kodak.
117 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 18.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 2, Swearing 3.

Review date: 03 Sep 2007