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 - the true story of Essex hardnut Carlton Leach - 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.
From fearsome football hooligan in the eighties to a key figure in the criminal underworld during the nineties, Footsoldier charts Leach's rise through the ranks of thuggery. Leaving the terraces for nightclubs, Leach becomes a bouncer where he's given carte blanche to kick the crap out of anyone. Here he gets in with notorious gangland leaders Pat Tate (Fairbrass) and Tony Tucker (Stone), and begins to realise gang-warfare ain't what it's cracked up to be.
"SICKENING APPETITE FOR SCATTERSHOT VIOLENCE"
Director Gilbey's use of the classic rise-and-fall gangster narrative isn't what will condemn Footsoldier to big screen obscurity. Nor is it the fact that half way through, the film annoyingly sidelines Leach in favour of the events culminating in the infamous shooting of Tate and Tucker. It's Gilbey's sickening appetite for scatter-shot violence that ruins the film; whether it's a brick in the face or axe in the head during a vicious attack on a train, it's all unnecessarily prolonged. Footsoldier doesn't so much pack a punch as leave you feeling violated and more importantly, robs you of two hours of your life you won't get back.
Rise of The Footsoldier is out in the UK on 7th September 2007.