1.5 out of 10

Release Date: 21st September 2015

Director: Steve M Smith (Haunted 4 / Haunted 3 / Haunted 2  / I Am Hooligan / Hooligans At War / Haunted (2013))

Cast: Chris Bell, Ross Boatman, Jesse Birdsall, Megan Lockhurst, Abbie Steele, James Hodcroft, Owen Clark, Jake Francis, Dean Martins, David King, Danny Howard, Darren James King, Jemima Slade with Mark Arden and Carlton Leach

Writer: Steven M Smith, Chris Bell & Chris Jolley


Essex-Boys-Law-of-Survival-Poster-stundpage-209x300The undead figure of the Essex Boys movie shambles into view once more. The unstoppable sub-genre of British gangster movie that circles around the Rettendon Landrover murders continues apace with this sorry addition. This one comes with an endorsement from Rettendon murder victim Pat Tate’s bessie mate, Carlton Leach, as if to say – laugh at this film at your peril because it’s the real deal. Well, I hope he got bought more than that pint he’s seen supping as his opening voice-over explains that Rettendon was ‘just the beginning’.

Producer / actor Chris Bell (BONDED BY BLOOD 2) plays Danny who gets dragged into a crass gang power move and massacre instigated by Detective Franks (ROSS BOATMAN – LONDON’S BURNING) when his pregnant fiancee (ABBIE STEELE) gets murdered.  The link to the Landrover murders is tenuous and risky yet nonsensical.  Danny teams up with a fake American gun expert and the Canadian Secret Service (yes really) to foil Franks. The film resembles a DIY version of Taken more than a gangster movie.

It’s encouraging to see that some of the main players are given an opportunity to act, as there is some ability on show. Chris Bell has some good scenes and old pros like Jesse Birdsall (ELDORADO), Boatman and Mark Arden (CARRY ON COLUMBUS) make an effort to inject this with a bit of seriousness. There’s a nice performance from first timer Abbie Steele, so she could have a decent future if she finds a good agent. Worst performance awards goes to an unknown called James Hodcroft. His take as Danny’s mysterious cousin Lee is so irritating you’ll be willing his character to get killed. When it finally happens you’ll be cheering, he’s so bad he belongs in Hooligans At War. Also the murder scene where Danny’s best friend Harvey (DARREN JAMES KING – LOOTERS TOOTERS AND SAWN OFF SHOOTERS) is killed by transvestite is the best piece of unintentional comedy of 2015. Hilarious, I ended up watching the scene three times to make sure I hadn’t dreamt it up.  It’s all misdirected effort because in every other department the film collapses into a heap. The script and plot is about as ludicrous as I’ve ever seen and plot twists seem to have been thrown in on the day of shooting. Someone’s bought a camera drone as there are some low-resoultion aerial shots which work sparingly, it’s a shame the images in these ‘breathers’ decay even on a small TV.

Never has a low-budget been worn on the maker’s sleeve as much as it is in Essex Boys – Law of Survival. It’s as if the makers went in preparing a lack of money as an excuse for how duff it all is. Given the result they needed a rewrite, and more time spent directing and blocking the scenes. The direction seems non existent and the editor may have been drunk. It’s 100% better than Hooligans At War but that’s like saying a cat turd is better than a dog turd because it’s smaller. There are improvements to be seen and the makers are moving in the right direction, but at this pace they maybe up to the same quality of Jack Says in about 10 years’ time.

A joke compared to all of the previous Essex Boys movies (this one was even set and filmed in Orpington, Kent!) and I’ve never seen a good one besides the daddy of ’em all Rise of the FootsoldierSteve M Smith and Chris Bell are coming back with some horror films next , so with a bit of luck they will have found a genre in which they can flex some creative muscles rather than splashing around in old and shitty bathwater that is the Essex Boys sub-genre.

1.5 out of 10 – Sloppy and ridiculous.

Check out a second review from Matt ‘Rettendon’ Usher aka Joe Pesci II below. He’s so Essex he lives on Rettendon Lane.




  1. Review by Matt ‘Yorkshire Boys’ Usher

    So what happened that night in Rettendon in 1995? If you don’t know what I’m talking about then go elsewhere: you are unsullied and should remain pure. If you do want to know, go elsewhere: this film merely shoehorns in a cheerfully fictional
    theory with sledgehammer finesse, a theory which is as relevant to the main plot as Paul Tanter is to the Oscars ceremony. But fear not! This is not a Tanter monstrosity (that’s ESSEX BOYS: RETRIBUTION to be reviewed in the near-future). No, this is a Smith-Bell monstrosity, although anyone familiar with their previous effort (HOOLIGANS AT WAR – NORTH VS SOUTH (or HAW-NVS)) will be surprised that this is a quantum leap improvement. Though that’s not saying much. (At least this looks like it’s in colour.)

    So how does this film justify the ESSEX BOYS sobriquet? Well, we begin with a man in a pub, who, through voice-over, says he’s the real Carlton Leach. I suspect we’re meant to be impressed by this, but the editor isn’t and within ten seconds we’ve cut to some unhappy football supporters and a topless lady with head-sized breasts. Meanwhile Leach burbles away about something or other. It appears that Leach knew the Essex Boys (there’s even a film about it). But then he leaves the pub and isn’t seen again. Meanwhile the main character mentions the Essex Boys a couple of times. And there’s a flashback to that night in Rettendon! And someone visits Southend. So lots of Essexness. (Anyone wanting more Essexy Boyishness is (a) picky and (b) fortunate there are so many films about the tedious trio.) So we can aver that the spirit of the Essex Boys hovers like a fairy godmother over the movie.

    All of which is irrelevant to the majority of the film which is set mostly in Kent and revolves around a young man seeking vengeance after a night wandering innocently in a secluded wood miles from anywhere unexpectedly turns nasty. Whereas HAW: NVS was a bunch of disconnected improvisations stitched together via a flashback structure of awesome ludicrousness, here we have a more linear story: there’s a bent copper who causes more trouble than all the gangsters. Meanwhile there are some gangsters who are annoying him. Our hero, his girlfriend and his flat-cap-wearing best pal get caught in the crossfire, literally in the case of the girlfriend who receives a fatal abdominal wound just one hundred and thirty four seconds after revealing some joyous news to her beloved. Surely I need not reveal the results of the pregnancy test? Desperate to avenge the brutal murder® of his partner and unborn child (© P. Tanter) our hero turns to a fake American (we know he’s an American because everyone calls him The Yank) who lives secretly in a caravan and is a major arms dealer. Armed with a gun, his own burning rage and the unexpected help of a female representative of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (one of the film’s few saving graces is that our hero doesn’t immediately forget about his dead girlfriend and hop into bed with her – they’ve both got proper vengeance work to do), our hero valiantly attempts to restore peace (through the medium of violence).

    Chris Bell is our star. He also did some of the writing and producing etc. He’s a natural enough performer (though currently many miles and moons from being a decent actor), and is perfectly believable in scenes where he’s doing the sort of normal everyday things people do (which is more difficult than it seems – observe Vinnie Jones in the shop in REDIRECTED – you can see him thinking ‘stand here, move forward, put coffee down’). Bell fails where Jones succeeds – action scenes are not his metier (unfortunate if you’re in a violent revenge thriller). Perhaps he might become a decent soap actor. (That’s not a barbed comment. Most of this review is, but that isn’t.) Someone who must never be allowed to act again is Cousin Lee, paradoxically one of the finest creations in Essex Boy mythology. The point of his character is unclear plotwise, though he is important thematically as he was at Rettendon. He knew. He saw. But could not say. The scars of Rettendon are raw, and Lee hides his feelings through a mask of such passivity it is difficult to know if he’s thinking or even alive. Maybe Lee was so traumatised he clung to his cap as a safety blanket, as it seems to be welded to his head (even after death it sticks limpet-like to his skull) (honestly, knowing that he dies is more of an enticement to keep watching rather than a spoiler – the actor really is quite terrible and the role is laughable). I love Cousin Lee.

    Elsewhere established names like Ross Boatman and Jesse Birdsall deliver dully reliable performances (but why was Birdsall in the film? I can’t see that his character contributed to the proceedings significantly, though he appears to be a shady Mr Big operating from the offices of a sinister …um… leisure centre). Unusually for a film of this ilk the women are relatively strong given the lack of material / ludicrous material they have to deal with. Abbie Steele, who plays the doomed pregnant girlfriend, should be a (probably ITV) Austen/Dickens/Bronte heroine in the near future, while Megan Lockhurst makes more of a silly role than it strictly deserves, managing to play it admirably straight (though that ends up emphasising the unintended comedy of the situation even more).

    There are a few moments which suggest someone’s thought about what they’re doing: there’s a nice ‘angel of death’ moment for our lovable hero, and Cousin Lee’s death scene seems to have been curtailed to spare everyone’s blushes. ESSEX BOYS LAW OF SURVIVAL takes its place firmly at the lower end of the Essex Boy cinematic pantheon. In fact it’s battling ESSEX BOYS RETRIBUTION for bottom place. Find out soon(ish) (once I’ve reviewed that drivel) which one comes out worst!

    Stay tuned…

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