The Fall of the Essex Boys
February 8, 2013
Starring: Robert Cavanah, Kierston Wareing, Peter Barrett, Jay Brown, Simon Phillips, Nick Nevern, Kate Magowan, Tony Denham, Peter Woodward, Ewan Ross, Eddie Webber, Joe Stamp, Charlie Bond, Roman Kemp, Emile Jansen,
The Fall of the Essex Boys is the latest collaboration between producers Jonathan Sothcott and Simon Phillips, and easily represents their best work so far. Hot on the heels of The Rise & Fall of a White Collar Hooligan (2012) Essex Boys is headed up once again by Nick Nevern, a relative newcomer to the film world but someone who is fast making a name for himself with a series of intense, often dangerous, performances.
True to form for Sothcott and Phillips, Essex Boys is a hectic, fast paced British gangster film which is very different from the Guy Ritchie efforts such as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998). Essex Boys has little of the humour and stylised imagery seen in Ritchie’s films, and instead relies on gritty, filthy realism. Many of the characters are wholly unpleasant, leaving the viewer struggling for someone to root for in the melee of violence and conflict which drives the film.
The film begins with the brutal slaying of persons unknown in a Landrover in a country lane, before rolling the clock back to events leading up to that moment. As the viewer you’re left guessing as to the identities of both the assailants and the victims as the violence and rivalries of the film play out.
The film is reminiscent, in some ways, of Goodfellas (1990) in the manner of the recurring voice over from one of the gang members. However, unlike Ray Liotta’s calm and measured delivery in the Scorsese classic, Essex Boys features an aggressive, fast paced and foul mouthed voice over from gang member Darren Nicholls (Nevern). He doesn’t attempt to glamorise what they’re doing, he tells it straight in colourful detail, and doesn’t care who he offends.
Nicholls is the film’s main protagonist. He’s part of the gang, but doesn’t seem to have his heart truly in what he’s doing. He also doesn’t seem to have the trust of anyone around him and is treated like a stooge by the new power team on the block, Pat Tate (Barrett), Tony Tucker (Brown) and Craig Rolfe (Phillips). It’s a toss-up between these three men for which is the bigger psychopath. Rolfe stabs a guy for speaking to his bird, Tucker has a typical short man complex and wants to fight the world and Tate is a seriously foul individual bordering on the neurotic. At a push it’s probably Tate who is the worst of these three, and his self-importance peaks when he’s cheating on his girlfriend Karen (Wareing) only to be caught in the act, and then shouts at Karen asking what she things he supposed to do with his erection now she’s caught him.
A highlight of Tate’s violent nature occurs when an unsuspecting employee at a pizza parlour hangs up on him while he hurls abuse down the phone after not getting the order he wants. Rather than leave it there, Tate turns up the pizza parlour ten minutes later looking for the poor lad, before beating him in the face with the cash register.
Let’s face it, we’ve all wanted to do that to someone on the other end of the phone at some stage or another.
The three Essex boys, together Mickey Steel (Cavanah) and Nicholls, are responsible for much of the drug scene in Essex – but things start to go wrong when some dodgy gear makes it through and people start overdosing, causing the death of a former police chief’s daughter.
Detective Phil Stone (Ross) juggles his idyllic family life and young daughter with the seedy world of drug dealers and killings in his attempts to bring the men to justice, and even has to cross the line to ensure Tate isn’t arrested for something trivial when a potential bigger score could be forthcoming. This causes Stone to assess his own place in the world, and wrestle with the fact he’s not above perverting the cause of justice if it means getting the right results.
What may seem like a fairly simple plot takes several twists and turns along the way, as characters reveal hidden agendas and depths they were previously keeping secret.
Essex Boys is very tightly directed and doesn’t lose pace at any point during the film – with the large number of morally challenged characters all finding ample screen time to perfectly convey their personas. Even the minor characters in Essex Boys, such as Billy Carmichael (Webber) come across as well rounded and fleshed out.
The action builds to the known climax of the Landrover shootings, and takes us beyond to find out what exactly happened and what has been transpiring the whole time. Essex Boys is a great British film, and one which should put Nevern firmly on the cinematic map.