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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Its a Way Of Life, but if you live by the sword you will die by it, 25 Feb. 2010
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This review is from: Rise Of The Footsoldier [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
In December 1995, the bodies of three notorious figures in London's gangland, were found in a Range Rover on a snowy country road. They were riddled with bullets. Though two men were eventually convicted of their murder, the real story behind it has remained the subject of speculation, and it was previously treated in film in the Sean Bean thriller Essex Boys. Rise Of The Footsoldier takes a slightly different perspective, basing itself on the memoirs of former thug for hire and sometime gang lieutenant Carlton Leach. As well as providing background to the murders, it supplies a string of anecdotes about the London underworld which comprise a loose account of Leach's own rise to power and his gradual understanding of the horror of the world in which he operated.
Blame Guy Ritchie. The late 90s success of Ritchie's cliché-ridden Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels triggered a series of pitiful gangster movies from which the genre never really recovered. Sadly Rise of The Footsoldier, isn't likely to reverse that trend. Despite a decent lead performance from Hartnett, the film falls victim to all-too familiar East End stereotypes. They're either busy blowing someone's brains out or shagging a scantily-clad blonde. Director Julian Gilbey can certainly deliver a punch, but he seems to have mistaken shock for real emotional impact. This is an excellent attempt to bring something new to the crime genre. Those who can stomach it will find it genuinely thrilling and disturbing a repugnant gangland romp in which a group of Neanderthalic, perpetually gurning ruffians get tooled up with axe handles, baseball bats and Stanley knives then knock ten bells out of each other for just shy of two hours. Ultimately, violence aside, there's not a whole lot to this story, and once viewers have time to catch their breath and realise this they'll find that it starts to drag. Ricci Harnett makes a charismatic narrator and turns in a surprisingly affecting performance as Leach, but when he's absent there's little to hold our attention. Although there's some good solid acting from a cast largely borrowed from Eastenders, they never make us care as much as we should about the murdered men or the mystery relating to them. Again as with al these films I sense a undercurrent of suppressed homo-tendencies. Perhaps that's why there is a need to express this bottled up suppression in bouts of vilence.

Based on a memoir by former gang member and all-round hard case Carlton Leach. This is an unapologetic two hours that aims in vain for epic stature, tracing his career through three decades. Leach began as a West Ham-supporting soccer hooligan in the 1970s: the queasy violence between rival fans in its early scenes thus sustains another unlovable genre. Leach's progress, if that's the right word, involves a stint as a violent club bouncer (1980s), dalliances with various drugs and anabolic steroids, witnessing sundry murderous acts and eventually graduating to a real gang (1990's). In the large cast, women exist solely to be abused, slapped about or used as sexual playthings by these feral boy-men. And rightly so Beginning with Leach's experiences as a football hooligan, Rise Of The Footsoldier embarks on a visual assault comprising the most consistently violent images you will see on the big screen. Forget horror movies, this is real, visceral, eminently imitable violence of the sort which takes place on British streets every drunken weekend but which is, for the most part, blessedly hidden from the eyes of the public. It's an unrepentant attempt to shock the viewer into sitting up and taking notice, though in time it also has a numbing effect, which is, of course, entirely appropriate, because this is how it enables us to get into the mindset of its protagonists. As such, it is much more honest than most urban crime stories. Here even the most charming of villains are shown in full-on nastiness and there's no room for the illusion that they're really nice guys for whom we ought to feel sympathy because they love their dear old mums. When we start to identify with them anyway, this forces us to ask questions about ourselves.
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