Rise of the Footsoldier charts the rise of football hooligan Carlton Leach from small time gang footsoldier to being one of the most feared people in the criminal underworld. Based on true events, the film focuses on Leach and the Rettendon murders of 1995.
Interestingly choosing to start the film at the beginning, Bafta award winning director Julian Gilbey immediately captures audience attention by showing them the grisly remains of three of the film’s key players. Leach, played here by Ricci Harnett, is conspicuous by his absence on the autopsy table and narrates the piece explaining the events that led up to the massacre. We’re treated to some well-played and neatly choreographed hooligan scenes set in the early 1980’s where the Inter City Firm would quell their blood lust on match days by starting fights with rival fans.
As the film progresses we watch as Leach makes his steady way toward being a criminal mastermind. We watch as his actions gradually damage his home life, his job as bouncer leading him astray with countless girls ultimately causing too much strain in his first marriage. As time passes Leach gets caught up in the rave and drug scenes of the late 80’s and early 90’s, bringing him into contact with people who would change his life forever.
Rise of the Footsoldier deals with its period pieces well, the cars aren’t too flash and the hairstyles aren’t either (we’re looking at you, Terry Stone). Although Harnett sometimes overdoes the hard-man attitude his overall performance is applaudable. The introduction of major characters is done well and flashbacks and side stories add life to an already interesting tale. The character of Pat Tate (played here by Craig Fairbrass) is perhaps the most sinister of al those portrayed in the film, with the man seemingly having no conscience and a love of violence.
Things start to go awry when the gang get overly involved in drugs; members start to go missing and tensions mount. As problems start to snowball Leach discovers that three of his closest allies, Tony tucker (Stone), Pat Tate and Craig Rolfe, have been murdered in a land rover. Later nicknamed the Rettendon murders, little is known to this day as to what happened in the run up to the crime. Although charges were made the film toys with several possible endings making for intriguing viewing.
Although it clearly lacks the budget of Hollywood blockbusters, Rise of the Footsoldier tackles some interesting issues whilst enveloping the world it portrays in mystery and intrigue.