Though not a perfect film by any means, this story about violent pill-dealing mafia wannabes has bags of flavour. It’s based on the Rettendon Range Rover murders, which saw two drug barons and their driver murdered in a car in the back of beyond, in December 1995. Four films have been made (as I write) about the events of that night but this is the first and it’s probably the best (though Bonded by Blood is tasty too). Quite why this one event has spawned so many fictional retellings is a mystery, though my personal theory is that a fair bit of smallscale film-making in the UK is more about laundering money than creating deathless art and that the Rettendon Range Rover murder victims were either known to many guys in the business, or possibly they see the whole episode as a “there but for the grace of god” warning. My pet theory aside, Essex Boys is marked out by a stand-up cast – Tom Wilkinson, convincingly hard as John Dyke, a Mr Big in genteel semi-retirement goaded into action by a gang of wannabes who think he’s gone soft. Alex Kingston and Charlie Creed-Miles also put in attention-grabbing turns. It was after this film, in fact, that Creed-Miles was tipped, in almost all corners, for the top. It never happened, though recently he has roared back in Dexter Fletcher’s great debut, Wild Bill. Sean Bean, swapping his Yorkshire accent for Essex, is also believably tough, as ex-lag Jason Locke, a kingpin-in-waiting who thinks he can outsmart Dyke. Think again, Mr Locke, and welcome to a world of pain, as adaptable Tom Wilkinson straps on a bloodcurdling snarl and prepares to hoist the double-barrel.
© Steve Morrissey 2013