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Rise Of The Footsoldier Part II Review

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Full-time crook Carlton Leach (Ricci Hartnett) finds himself in a world of paranoia as he tries to shake off the effects of the Rettendon murders, the real-life clash that left three drug dealers dead.

★★★★★

“I will die with dignity,” proclaims football-hooligan-turned-professional-criminal Carlton Leach, but there’s precious little nobility in the follow-up to 2007’s Rise Of The Footsoldier. You don’t need to have seen the original to know the cause of his fatalism, but it would certainly help.

Reeling from the loss of his best friends and partners in crime in the infamous, real-life Essex Range Rover murders, Leach’s paranoia helpfully manifests itself in blood-splattered flashbacks. Cliché-filled narration and two-dimensional supporting characters fill in the blanks as Leach puts family commitments on the backburner in favour of strippers and coke as he attempts to go out on a high – in more ways than one.

90s neons and piano house are the order of the day, but beneath the alcohol-soaked revelry lies the all-too-real fact that Carlton’s days are numbered. You can’t blame a man for surrounding himself with his most reliable companions in times of trouble, but Leach takes it to the next level with cattle prod-bearing doormen and bald henchmen who would give Mr. Hinx a run for his money. The club scene at home and abroad provides a form of sanctuary for the former West Ham thug – and a way to prove himself to those who think he may be losing his touch.

For diehard fans only.

With the men front and centre, women are very much resigned to gangland stereotypes: ‘Irish girl who knows when to keep her mouth shut’ and ‘disgruntled wife’ being the two most complex. “Gypsies” also get a rough deal, painted as en vogue pests with incredibly broad strokes.

Bone-crunching blandness and profanity-spouting monotony aside, Hartnett shows some promise as a director: ROTFS II’s inclusion of a Jim-Broadbent-in-Filth-inspired Steven Berkoff and a Mikado-singing villain prove he’s not scared of the leftfield. But Part II (setting itself up for a Godfather-style Part III?) takes itself far too seriously, and is for diehard fans only.

Writer/director/star Hartnett shows real commitment to his subject, but this sequel falls short of the legend it constructs for its central character.

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