Life of Crime: Remembering the Essex Boys

PosterFret not, Essex Boys is  far from an early noughties version of TOWIE and if there was any resemblance between the two, this review would not consist of praise. Instead, Essex Boys takes the gritty, lawbreaking, darkside of Britain and aggressively shoves it in your face until the story is absorbed through osmosis in the beads of nervous sweat on your brow. Add in Sean Bean continually dropping the f-bomb, wife beating, committing adultery, drug abusing, throwing people out of buildings and beating others six ways from Sunday, and you have yourself a gangster thriller. The men in Essex Boys, however, have a certain sophisticated composure that juxtaposes with their devious intentions and that darker, hidden side to British culture which could strike an interest to those who wouldn’t ordinarily watch such violent films. The gang of drug dealers is very tight-knit and when Billy Reynolds (Charlie Creed-Miles), an innocent taxi driver, chauffeurs Jason Locke (Sean Bean) to unleash revenge on his enemies, he is soon dragged by his collar into a life of crime where his only escapes are prison or death.

Jason and his gang saunter down the streets of Essex, asserting their power over the other criminals, much like the Italian Mafia or the Japanese Yakuza. Though they may not be as infamous as other gangs of the world, their shady drug dealings and the organised murders that lurk in the shadows are captured to a brutally beaten tee. With the film being loosely based on the December 1995 Rettendon Range Rover Shootings, Essex Boys has that intense realism of actuality. In contrast to this, the word loosely is emphasised here as the film only uses the shootings as a pivotal climax whilst the other events prior to and after are all fictional. Using a real event to convey the animosity of Britain’s gangs is almost considered to be evidence that Britain does not just consist of tea sipping, eloquently spoken wealthy persons mixed with cockney, skinhead pub-dwellers often shown in foreign media due to social stereotyping.

Although Essex Boys didn’t make it very far in terms of a global audience, it’s readily available in most second hand shops but it’s not advisable to watch if you have a weak stomach…

Essex BoysSome of the graphic acts include Jason’s enemy having acid thrown in his eyes, another being dragged down the streets by a car, many being beaten half to death, violent sexual scenes and Billy even waking up in a pool of his own vomit – his time with the gang is a turbulent one but his natural, somewhat dopey kindheartedness, superbly portrayed by Miles, has a mild influence on one particular member of the gang – Jason’s wife, Lisa Locke (Alex Kingston), who is subjected to sexual degradation and abuse. That is until Billy makes her feel better about herself – good guy Billy despite being in a gang of misogynistic, narcotic abusing thugs, right? Wrong!

Billy and Lisa have an affair and after realising that he has betrayed Jason, Billy sets out to save himself from a beating. However, Jason’s gang are all murdered after rivals intercept their Range Rover in the woods and force them to eat lead with their shotguns. You’d initially believe that the end of the film was the subsequent scene in which Billy only just manages to flee back to Lisa and the pair go into hiding, but one final plot twist asserts itself into the narrative and it’s a serious slap around the face.

What do you think of Essex Boys? If you haven’t seen it yet, do you want to?

Comment with your thoughts.

Letitia Lemon


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