Thursday, 14 March 2013

The Only Way Is Ecstasy - The Fall Of The Essex Boys

The Fall Of The Essex Boys

The Only Way Is Ecstasy

Once upon a time, well, December 1995, three not-so-bright, charmless, borderline psychopathic gangsters bit the dust (or at least the expensive upholstery of the Range Rover they were sitting in) in a hail of lead in a quiet country lane in rural Essex.

The three, Tony Tucker, Pat Tate and Craig Rolfe were vicious, coked up, ‘roided up thugs who had Southend’s drug business sewn up and were set up for execution after getting too big for their boots and also, allegedly, being the dealers responsible for selling the Ecstasy tablet that led to the death of ex-policeman’s daughter, Leah Betts.  Two equally unlovable gangsters, Michael Steele and Jack Wholmes, from a rival firm were eventually convicted of the murders in 1998 on the evidence of police ‘supergrass’ Darren Nicholls.

Thanks to the brutal nature of the killings, the incident has taken on a life of it’s own becoming England’s answer to the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre and, until the emergence of TOWIE, was probably the vilest thing to come out of Essex.  And like Mark Wright it just won’t go away.  First there was 2000’s Essex Boys, a names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent account of the murders and the events leading up to them which had a decent cast (Sean Bean, Alex Kingston, Tom Wilkinson) and was a solid, if uninspiring little Brit gangster flick.  Then there was Julian Gilbey’s muscular Rise Of The Footsoldier in 2007 which focused on peripheral figure, ex-football hooligan and gangster Carlton Leach.  2010 saw the bottom of the barrel scraped by Bonded By Blood but even then there was precious little meat left on the bones of those designer-clad corpses. 

Now, 17 years after the murders, we have The Fall Of The Essex Boys, the fourth version of what happened that dark rainy night in Essex and perhaps the most inept, superfluous film you’ll have the misfortune to see all year.  Or any year.  With narration that sounds like it’s being delivered by a cokehead reading the script aloud for the first time, the film is essentially 87 minutes of interchangeable dodgy geezers in Pringle sweaters and designer tracksuit bottoms being a bit tasty, snorting, drinking, banging slags, brandishing shooters, riding in speedboats like they’re in Miami Vice not Southend and generally playing Charlie Big Potatoes while calling everyone around them a “Caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaant!”  A nasty, vacuous waste of your time, the tedium of The Fall Of The Essex Boys is only alleviated by the rather cruel pleasure to be derived from the fact that one of the “actors” (and in this film that term is looser than Gandalf’s cloak) cast as a thuggish Essex Boy sounds like he has a severe speech impediment.  Or maybe that’s what the real gangster sounded like.  Either way, weeping with disgust and repeatedly hitting yourself in the face with a claw hammer in a fog of drunken self-hate while watching re-runs of TOWIE on ITV2 will achieve much the same effect as watching The Fall Of The Essex Boys.

Interestingly though, the Rettendon Range Rover murders have become almost the Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon of the UK film industry with virtually every British B-movie actor of the last 20 years turning up in more than one telling of the tale.  While the likes of Sean Bean and Alex Kingston (Essex Boys), Craig Fairbrass (Rise Of The Footsoldier), Vincent Regan, Tamer Hassan and Adam Deacon (Bonded By Blood) have managed to get away with being in just one film, poor Billy Murray wasn’t so lucky, appearing in two (Essex Boys and Rise Of The Footsoldier) while his Rise Of The Footsoldier co-stars Neil Maskell and Terry Stone were also unlucky enough to be in Bonded By Blood.  Pity then the talented and ill-used Kierston Wareing; she gets to play a chavtastic slag in Rise…, Bonded… and The Fall Of The Essex Boys.  Maybe it’s time to change agents…   

David Watson
Directed by:
Written by:
Produced by:
1 hour 27 minutes
UK Cinema Release Date:
Friday 8th February

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