Surprisingly, seeing the original Rise Of The Footsoldier is not a prerequisite for understanding the sequel, being as it is a standalone story of a man being drowned in the quagmire of his gangster lifestyle. Ricci Harnett returns as hooligan-turned-gangster, Carlton Leach, constantly looking over his shoulder for fear of being taken out by the same men who killed his friends many years ago. As well as returning to star, Harnett takes on roles as both writer and director.
This is one of several films over the last 16 years to take its cues from Terry Winsor’s Essex Boys. Starting off with flashbacks based on the true life Rettendon murders – also known as the Range Rover murders – Rise Of The Footsoldier Part 2 follows Carlton as he fights with his employers, his wife, his mates, his enemies, and literally anyone else who looks at him the wrong way. Occasionally, he pauses to stare out into the middle-distance whilst a voiceover dishes out dialogue like “to survive in this world, you have to fight till your lungs fill with blood.” He’s a man clearly on the fast train to his grave.
There’s a strange hero worship mentality to the proceedings, as if Carlton is a victim of his own anger and vitriol. Admittedly, such accusations can be thrown at films like Bronson and Chopper, but as film characters, they at least felt rounded. Here, Harnett tries to craft a tragic hero from a one-note thug, with a script that uses the f-word as noun, verb, adjective, and punctuation. What the film does have going for it is skillful direction from Harnett. This is his directorial debut, and there’s certainly a lot of promise on display as he shows restraint where his dialogue doesn’t. It’ll be interesting to see what else he has under his belt.