RISE OF THE FOOTSOLDIER Directed by Julian Gilbey. Starring Ricci Harnett, Roland Manookian, Terry Stone, Craig Fairbrass, Billy Murray, Ian Virgo 18 cert, Cineworld/ Vue, Dublin, 118 min
THE website for Rise of the Footsoldier opens on a mock street sign carrying the title and splattered with blood. The rise depicted is that of Carlton Leach (Ricci Harnett) from vicious London soccer hooligan in the mid-1970s to dangerous drug dealer in the 1990s. Here is a protagonist who relishes confrontation, so much so that on his wedding day he proudly draw attentions to his facial bruises from a fight the night before.
The film is “based on a true story”, we are told, and Leach was an adviser on the production. To his credit, he allows it to show him warts and all, so to speak, as a sadistic gangster devoid of any moral compass. Or maybe he is as proud of that as he was of his wedding-day bruises.
Julian Gilbey, the 31-year-old director, received a Bafta nomination this year as most promising newcomer for another crime movie, Rollin’ With the Nines, briefly released here last year. A great-grandson of Nigel Bruce, who played Dr Watson in the 1940s Sherlock Holmes films, Gilbey scripted the new film with his younger brother William.
They overreach themselves by aiming for a crime epic in the style of GoodFellas, and later there is a peculiar shift away from the principal character to concentrate on the “Range Rover murders” of three English drug dealers in 1995, already the subject of Essex Boys (2000).
The casting is astute, and Gilbey demonstrates flair for staging convincing action sequences on a low budget – so convincing that the frequent violence is startlingly graphic in a film populated by repellent characters and littered with expletives.