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Christopher Webster [DVD News 05.26.11] United Kingdom movie review dvd thriller

Year: 2010
Directors: Sacha Bennett
Writers: Graeme Muir, Sacha Bennett
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: agentorange
Rating: 6 out of 10

[Editor's note: Don't forget to enter to win one of five DVDs of Bonded by Blood]

The best true-crime films are usually written like tragedies. Goodfellas, Blow, Scarface, Stander; all Icarus tales about guys growing up on the fringes, becoming made men and then getting too greedy when the dirty money starts rolling in. Their rise is usually an entertaining whirlwind of glamor and excess while their downfall exposes the American dream as a breeding ground for ungentlemanly behavior. And of course, their death/capture is always depicted with a certain epic gravitas in order to give the characters mythic qualities. Say hello to my little friend! Yes, our criminals are as mythic as our heroes.

Unfortunately, while Bonded by Blood delivers on its promise of showing the true story of the "Essex Boys" in all its bloody foul-mouthed glory, there is no real joy in watching their rise and it tells the story from all the wrong perspectives, losing that ever important epic tragedy in the process.

For example, the film begins with a nifty framing device that tells the story from the perspective of Darren Nicholls, the man who eventually turns states evidence against the killers and ends up in witness protection (where he still is today). We see how Nicholls meets Jack Whomes and Michael Steele in prison and how he becomes the newest member of the little gang that becomes world famous. Considering he's the youngest of the bunch and ends up having a conscience I'd say he's the perfect character to tell this story to us.

Unfortunately, his character is basically abandoned as soon as big bully Pat Tate (played by Tamer Hassan from Kick Ass) comes on the scene. From here, the only characters we spend any time with are scum bags who beat their wives, snort a ton of blow and intimidate people ad nauseam. Fantastic villains to be sure, but none are given enough depth to pin an entire film on. They should have been balanced off by at least the appearance of a protagonist and essentially you just can't wait to them get bumped off.

Now before you call me a "Nonce," (or whatever new slang a Brit might accuse me of being), I'll admit that the performances are all top notch - each actor perfectly reigning in a solid performance. Nobody does gritty crime quite like the Brits and no punches are pulled in terms of showing the harsh reality of being a criminal in England. But even the harshest, most violent criminal in England has more to him than sneering brutality (case in point: Bronson) and it's a one dimensional take on the tale that holds the film down.

Also - and this was a minor quibble - where was all the great English pop music from the era?! These guys were operating at the height of "Brit pop" and when rave culture was in a major comeback. I know it's expensive to get music sometimes, but that kind of cultural Cross-pollination is also what the film could have used to paint a larger picture out of a fairly small criminal group.

Not a must seem, but fans of British crime thrillers will dig this one.

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