Essex Boys:Law Of Survival and I Am Hooligan

What with schedules being a bit mad, and a few technical issues. I havent recorded any new podcasts over the past week. That’s the bad news, but the good news is that I have had time to catch up on a few films that have been sitting on my DVD pile. Two of those films were directed by British filmmaker Steven M Smith (Hooligans at War:North V South) and featured actor Chris Bell (Bonded By Blood 2) and actor Darren James King (Looters Tooters and Sawn Off Shooters) It wasnt a purposeful double bill, they just so happened to be on the small pile of films I worked my way through in this mid October week.

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First up was Essex Boys:Law Of Survival and yes I know…how many films do we need that feature ‘Essex’ in the title (answers on a postcard please)  but they say (whoever they are) never judge a book by its cover, and I say never judge a film by its title.I held off watching Essex Boys:Law Of Survival because I am pretty much fed up with films involving ranger rovers and the Essex Boys legend. But each time I think I have watched the last one, another one comes out and turns out to be a decent enough film with a new spin on the same old story. I had paid money for the DVD of Essex Boys:Law Of Survival and therefor why on earth would I not watch it.  So what did I think? I actually thought it was a good film, will it rise to the royalty of British films? Probably not but it most certainly doesnt sink to the bottom either. Ignore the ‘Essex Boys’ part of the title. Whilst the narrative does touch a little upon the Essex crime stories that have been told before in ‘Essex Boys’, ‘Bonded By Blood’, ‘The Fall Of The Essex Boys’, ‘Rise of the Footsoldier’ and many more, Law Of Survival is its own animal and takes us into Danny’s world (played by Chris Bell) who takes on the Essex Underworld after they turn his life upside down refusing to let him leave behind his violent past.

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The film does have its downsides (as does any film if you look hard enough for them) but those are just perhaps one too many ‘geezer moments’ within the script and random scenes of sex in toilet cubicles that whilst Im sure were fun to film, they dont really bring anything special to the table.But hey. I didn’t write or make the film so its not my place to edit their scripts.

The other issue and for me its a major issue that also cropped up in the other film I watched from the same crew, is the colour grading. Now without getting too technical (and I dont understand the process of colour grading. I only understand what colour grading is) the grading in the film is massively distracting. In the same scene it will go from super bright and clear, to grain and Super 8 looking and then back again. But with the films the crew are making, this could be down to a budget issue and I certainly wont pull them up on not having the money they need to give us the film they want. But I would be letting everyone down if I didn’t acknowledge the jarring colour differences within the feature film.

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Shifting back to the good, and there is a lot of good in Essex Boys:Law Of Survival. Steven M Smith and Chris Bell work great together and the crew themselves are all headed in the right direction. I have seen several of their films over the past couple of years and do notice the increase in quality in a lot of areas.  There are some fun and very decent performances in the film including Carlton Leach (whos life story was turned into the film Rise Of The Footsoldier) who might not act full time but didnt show any lack of experience when it came to the film. Well done Carlton. Also James Hodcroft  in the role of Lee was also notable for his performance. Chris Bell in the lead as Danny is improving a lot with each film and that’s great to see. as Chris is a seriously hard working guy and its great to see it paying off for him and the films he appears in.

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If you look online, you will of course stumble into the usual negative comments about the film. Its British, Its a crime drama, its a low budget film that doesn’t give us a massively new plot to focus on but does what it says on the box. This brings the film into the firing line of the internet ‘film critics’ who love to bash movies and those who make them. I’ve seen a few of those negative comments already but I wont name who they are from until they themselves have struggled to make a feature length film on a super low budget. I admire anyone who makes a film. Of course I wont enjoy every film I see but in every film there are plus points and Essex Boys:Law Of Survival has many of them. I do prefer to recommend the film to you with the title Law Of Survival though. It has very little to do with the Essex Boys legacy but thats what sells and if Steven, Chris and Co keep making the films they want to make and finding the funding for future films. Then more power to them. They are doing a lovely job and I wish them all the very best.

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Finishing off my morning was I Am Hooligan also directed by Steven M Smith and featuring Chris and Darren and this time the starring role goes to Darren James King as ‘Justin’ a young man from a violent household who finds himself involved with a bunch of hooligans from the London housing estate. Whilst I Am Hooligan suffers from some of the similar issues I had with Essex Boys:Law Of Survival, there is also a lot to like in here. Whilst I personally feel that I might need to take a rest from watching hooligan movies for a while, the multi strand story of IAH works and has some great performances in there including a subplot about Justin’s parents played by Mark Wingett (The Bill)  and Sharon Lawrence (Witch) There could easily have been a whole film here about domestic abuse involving Justins parents and himself but that wouldn’t fit into a film called I Am Hooligan, but it was just an observation I wanted to make. Sharon and Mark were great in the film.  Once again we get scenes of ‘geezers’ but if thats what you like then thats perfect. Steven didn’t make the film purely for me (at least I dont think he did) There is a market out there for British hooligan movies after all. Lately I have seen at least three films that have been renamed to include the word ‘Hooligan’ even though those films doesn’t really fit into the hooligan category. Its the film business after all….

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As I often do, once Ive watched a film, I head over to a few websites to see what other people think of the film and as I previously mentioned with Essex Boys:Law Of Survival,  the same style of comments come out about I Am Hooligan. I saw one comment that moaned about the lack of authenticity in the film but I am pretty sure I Am Hooligan didnt say ‘This is a true story’ but then again Might have missed that credit at the start. If you like films with baying crowds screaming at each other before knocking lumps out of each other, then go for I Am Hooligan, but the same goes for those of you who like to see another glimpse of what these filmmakers will be capable of in the future, Check out I Am Hooligan. I would love to see the crew tackle a slightly different genre. Something smaller, for examply the Mark Wingett/Sharon Lawrence storyline. set in a house, people talking and building up the anticipation for whats to come. Use the lower budget to your advantage but eek who am I to give them suggestions. Keep up the great work guys and girls!!

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