Director Sacha Bennett (who co-wrote the script with Graeme Muir) hasn’t made life easy for himself with this film. It’s based on a real-life incident that, in one way or another, has been filmed at least two times before (in the terrible Essex Boys movie and the Rise Of The Footsoldier, a film that lots of people enjoyed and I never quite saw the appeal of) and it’s one easy to pick apart.
There’s the Cockney, wide-boy gangster act. There’s the fact that it’s going over material already picked over with a fine tooth comb. There’s the explosion of expletives in every other line of the script. There’s the casual violence that explodes onscreen here and there.
However, from the little I remember of the other movie versions of this sordid event, this actually stands out as a solid take on the material. That’s, in no small part, due to the casting. Everyone does okay in their respective roles but the movie improves whenever the fantastic Vincent Regan is onscreen and things sear when Tamer Hassan is around. Hassan’s character, Pat Tate, is memorable for all kinds of the wrong reasons but the performance is a disturbingly strong one. Whether he’s getting his rocks off during some dangerous driving or ranting away at someone in a coke-fuelled red mist of anger, Hassan is completely believable as someone who absolutely couldn’t care less about who he hurts and who he has to go through to get what he wants. Regan, on the other hand, exudes the kind of controlled menace that he has done with great success in previous movie outings and he’s just fantastic to watch.
While it may be unfair to highlight these performances and cast aside everything else in the movie it’s also the best way to keep this review positive. You see, I don’t generally enjoy these kinds of films and I certainly didn’t see the point in retreading the old material at the centre of this one. Despite my reservations, I enjoyed this film and was dragged reluctantly alongside the assortment of nefarious characters onscreen mainly thanks to the forceful presences of both Regan and Hassan.
Adam Deacon does pretty good as Darren Nicholls and there are also good performances from the likes of Terry Stone (bravely playing the same character that he played in Rise Of The Footsoldier), Susie Amy, Lucy Brown, Nathan Constance and everyone else who has a major part in proceedings.
The other major plus points include a great soundtrack, a sense of style and an ability to walk the tightrope of showing a lifestyle that encompassed some fast cash, fast drugs and flippant violence while not glamorising anything in the slightest. When things are going well the moments of unpleasantness are shocking and when things begin to unravel towards the foregone conclusion (well, foregone conclusion for those who remember the press and/or previous adaptations) the temper flare-ups and the stabbings and the fights all add up to make a picture featuring people who didn’t really know what they were doing and who could only solve the problems with violence. Which, I think, makes the movie a marked improvement over any other attempts to fictionalise these events. Fans of this type of film will want to score this a little higher than I did. I give it 6/10.
Bonded By Blood is out on DVD 27th December.
DIRECTOR: SACHA BENNETT
CAST: TAMER HASSAN, VINCENT REGAN, ADAM DEACON, TERRY STONE, SUSIE AMY, LUCY BROWN
DURATION: 96 MINS APPROX