Boys Keep Swinging

Monday, January 14 2013
Boys Keep Swinging

It’s a relatively recent event in the murky history of British crime, and yet the Essex Boys killings have gained a stunning notoriety among young(ish) males across the UK.

It’s a case that comes with ready-made, pre-packed awareness, such is its infamy – the tale of a group of drug dealers and general nasty geezers who got in a bit deep and ended up meeting a grisly fate in a quiet lane in the middle of nowhere in the county.

The fact that as well as being ruthlessly and brutally violent in their bid to make more and more cash, they were also said to have supplied the pill that killed Leah Betts, the country’s most notable ecstasy death, only made their case all the higher profile.

Throw in conspiracy theories too and you’re looking at a recipe for, well a decent movie. Or three or four, as the case is.

For the story, and different versions of it, has been a lucrative one for filmmakers in the less than 20 years since the slayings.

The incident which ended the reign of the Essex Boys took place in December 1995 in a lane in Rettenden, in the county from which they took their name.

And just a few years later came the first entrant: Essex Boys, starring, among others, Sean Benn. It was revisited in part in Rise Of The Footsoldier and in more detail in 2010’s Bonded By Blood. All appealed to the key film-buying and –renting demographic ­– blokes in their 20s and 30s; all were commercial successes.

Now comes The Fall Of The Essex Boys, the latest film from the increasingly successful producer Jonathan Sothcott and his retinue of key cast and crew. Due via Metrodome, it arrives on DVD on February 18, some 10 days after a platform theatrical outing.

It follows hot on the heels of another commercial outing from the same outfit, Chata Pictures, White Collar Hooligan, a winner for Momentum on 2012.

Why the Essex Boys killings though? Why is the public is so fascinated by them?
“What makes the Essex Boys story such an evergreen one for audiences is that like jack The Ripper, officially nobody knows whodunit,” says Sothcott. “and of course because there’s a sniff of police conspiracy.

“The fact that they supplied the ‘E’ tablet that killed tragic Leah Betts means that police revenge conspiracies surfaced within an hour of the story breaking. During the course of researching and making this film I have heard the most outlandish theories (from everyone from taxi drivers to barmen) – it was the IRA, it was the Turks, it was the SAS. It is a constant education in urban mythology. I think also there’s a lot of nostalgia for the 90s rave scene, which acts as the background, and the fact that Essex is perennially popular – just look at TOWIE.”
So far so commercial, but why, we ask Sothcott, another film on the subject? Because, he says, there is still much to be told and much missing from the previous outings. “When I sat down to write The Fall Of The Essex Boys with Stephen Reynolds we knew we needed a new angle – obviously a new angle while presenting all the familiar elements audiences would expect.

“For me, the most interesting angle was the police – they NEEDED an arrest, they couldn’t be seen to be impotent in this case. So we looked at it as a police conspiracy thriller – and we go a bit further than the Range Rover murders, our story finished early the next morning… but I don’t want to give too much away.”

One key element missing from some of the other Essex Boys films is women. As Sothcott says: “It was also important to me to try and introduce a couple of meaty female characters – the male characters depicted were largely horrible misogynists and having actresses such as Kierston Wareing and Kate Magowan in meant we could humanise the story and make it a bit more accessible beyond the obvious audience (I hope), while keeping that very loyal audience happy.”
Where The Fall Of The Essex Boys can also work is the fact that it can proudly parade the fact that it comes from the same team behind White Collar Hooligan. Its success has helped Chata move up a gear. Ever with its eye on the commercial, Sothcott and co are also upping the quality threshold too.

“The Fall Of The Essex Boys has the same visual elan and frenetic pace that White Collar Hooligan had – which is mostly down to my brilliant DOP Haider [Zafar], who shot both. Pace really is crucial in these films. WCH also taught us that going abroad (Paris in that, Amsterdam in Essex Boys) not only adds production value but opens out the ‘world’ of the film for our audience.

“And finally,” he concludes, “Essex Boys was constructed as a vehicle for my talented friend Nick Nevern, building on our huge success with WCH which established him as a leading man. Essex Boys is bigger, badder and even more populist than WCH and I’m confident that Metrodome, which is incredibly supportive, will have a good result with it.”


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