“If you think you know this story…” the audience is told at the outset of the latest film to cover the 1995 Rettendon killings, “…think again.” The problem with this assertion is that Paul Tanter’s film, The Fall of the Essex Boys (2012), is the fourth film to tackle the subject matter in little over a decade. Presenting the tale through the eyes of ‘supergrass’ Darren Nicholls may provide a marginally different view, but ultimately this is tired genre fare that delivers little in the way of insight. Accompanied by a superfluous voiceover from Nicholls (Nick Nevern), we follow him and fellow crook Mickey (Robert Cavanah) smuggling drugs over from Amsterdam.
Amongst the two men’s clients are a trio of thuggish criminals that constitute the eponymous gang. These ruffians, in turn, provide product to individual dealers in a local Essex club, Raquel’s. When a bad batch of pills sees a young girl die, it puts the Essex Boys on a collision course with the smugglers, the police, and the fateful night that saw them stare down the barrels of a shotgun or two. Unfortunately, the proceedings are never quite as gripping or provocative as the basic plot outline suggests that they could be.
The middle stretch is marred by some clunky structuring that make the plot points less cohesive than they probably should have been, and less engaging than audiences might hope. None of this is helped by wafer thin characters that are difficult to like or loathe. It is not that the performances are bad but that the cast have such little to work with, a case in point being Kierston Wareing’s Karen. Essentially a bit of Essex totty, available to disrobe on several occasions, she’s utterly wasted; even in scenes attempting to lend the character of Mickey a little more depth. Whilst the hooligan element are all cast well enough, none of them are required to do much more than shout, or spit, dialogue littered with profanities.
Tanter’s film does well to create an authentic sense of the dingy and lurid environs that this rabble inhabits, but sadly this counts for precious little when the characters and narrative fail to convince. Its closing few minutes seem as though they might be suggesting a much more interesting twist, but sadly this is not the case and the film concludes a blandly as it has progressed. Fans of this kind of British underworld fare might be able to salvage something, but The Fall of the Essex Boys is nothing like a prime example of the genre.