1.5 out of 10

Release Date: 9th May 2016 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Terry Lee Coker (Hatton Garden – The Heist)

Cast: Michael McKell, Kris Johnson, Danniella Westbrook, Eddie Webber, Lucinda Rhodes, Paul McCarthy, Sidney Livingstone, Molly Henderson, Matt Hookings, Johnny Sachon, Jimmy Roussounis, Tony (AG) Longhurst,  John Altman, Dani Thompson with Joe Egan and Ian Burfield

Writer: Terry Lee Coker


essex-vendetta-(2016)This film ends with a terrifying threat to the viewer.  Over the closing credits you realise that lead actor Michael McKell (OUTPOST 3) is also a pop singer, and that the lyrics in the chorus go something like this, “And when the night falls, I come for youuuuu…”  Oh my gosh. Not only does the star, co-writer and producer of this floppy gangster yarn have aspirations to gain a career in the film industry but he’s also got his eye on the pop charts. It’s megalomania at its most cringeworthy.

That said Michael McKell is a pretty good actor and luckily for Essex Vendetta, a few of his friends can act as well. Unfortunately, him and his director and co-writer Terry Lee Coker have served up one of the worst plotted (if you could say that) films I’ve seen since Hooligan Wars. The presence of some talent saves it from being fully DOA.

Essex Vendetta made no sense and there was no vendetta. Story twists happen from which characters recover in seconds. People commit suicide, get shot, stabbed only to turn up minutes later. There’s a a weird kidnapping at a funeral which everybody notices but no one reacts to. The main character’s father mercy kills his wife has a tiny fight with his son then it’s forgotten all about. The father’s suicide is handled in a majorly distasteful and cackhanded way.  The inheritance is spent on a drug cache, also the main character borrows money from a local hood to open a tattoo parlour . This is also a place where drug deals are brokered and people die, but scenes pile up where the incident is half-realised and rushed through. It’s slap dash and largely nonsensical and if it was a photo it would be very blurred.  The acting is competent but the script and story is a dead dog. It even seems like pages have been skipped out, lots of them.The Vauxhall-Carlton league of decent actors all run past the camera to say a few lines but it all generally amounts to yet another amateur gangster actor love-in retitled last minute from On a Prayer to Essex Vendetta so that it sells 3 more copies at Asda in Dagenham. Terry Lee Coker also wrote Hooligan Legacy which is streets better than this sorry heap of sh*t. Kris Johnson from this and Hooligan Legacy could be a new face to watch as he’s very good at the shifty geezer character. Other than him and some nice Malta locations this is about as close to watchable as Essex Bendover ever gets. Oh yeah and the weird Ennio Morricone-style score with a whistler on it is curiously catchy but played randomly over any old scene. Joyless.

1.5 out of 10 – A poor, poor effort to make a ‘crime pays’ opus but this was just hopeless. I even watched it twice to see if it made sense. It still doesn’t.

Review below by Matt ‘Yorkshire Pudding Vendetta’ Usher




One thought on “ESSEX VENDETTA

  1. At least one man really believed in this film: as it opens we see him having the film’s title tattooed extravagantly and (hopefully) indelibly into his flesh. Then they changed the name of the film, which makes me giggle. The original title was ON A PRAYER. Maybe the producers thought that sounded too much like a 1980s power ballad (but, then again, the film closes with what sounds like a 1980s power ballad). But why name a film so subtly when you can simply put the words ESSEX and VENDETTA together?

    Unfortunately there isn’t a vendetta in the film (at several points it looks like there might be, but in the end the only vendetta is likely to be from audiences rising up against rubbish films like this). And quite a bit of it is set in the Mediterranean, so maybe they should have called it FROM MALDON TO MALTA.

    Alas, as well as being vendetta-less, the film also seems to have lost its plot. As far as I can make out, our hero, Spencer (played by Michael McKell, like a kind of even more ragged and grizzled version of Leo Gregory) is a good, honest(ish), hard-working Essex family man. But he has ambitions: he wants to open a tattoo shop (I refuse to call it parlour for reasons relating purely to snobbery) so as to provide for his family of orange Essex women. Fortunately his best buddy has the cash. So he opens the shop and it’s a moderate success. Alas there are clouds over the homestead: his father has mercy-killed his mother, then topped himself; meanwhile his brother can’t keep out of jail (and even when on the run manages to pick fights with Joe Egan – never a wise move) (and he sets himself on fire by accident, and manages to get kidnapped at their dad’s funeral by some of his own friends – I think); and his wife isn’t happy when he buys a boat (Danniella Westbrook) (as the wife, not the boat).

    But on top of all this domestic Eastenders-level tragedy and strife, there’s also a layer of, well, Eastenders-level gangster trouble as well. Spencer is inveigled into helping his fugitive brother with his drugs business. Then it turns out that his best buddy is both a psychopathic murderer and the local Mr Big. Meanwhile Spencer is haunted by flashbacks: an abusive childhood perhaps? A strange bond with an older school friend? The school friend turns up and seems to be a vaguely unlovely but relatively harmless criminal, but he gets murdered for reasons I still haven’t fathomed. This leads to Spencer calling on Eddie Webber, playing an undertaker who snorts coke from coffin lids. Between them they hatch a cunning plan to bury the body in a grave with someone else. Or something. This leads to a tense non-car-chase where we follow the funeral cortege in a sequence which is probably slower than an actual funeral. Gasp with anticipation as the hearse is held up at temporary traffic lights and the traffic police thrillingly show them a different route to the cemetery! (I’m not making this up.)

    Spencer finds himself involved in things that neither he nor the audience can understand. He’s like a non-comic Del Boy, surrounded by inexplicable amounts of violent crime. He rushes off to Malta masquerading as a disabled man, and gets involved in drug deals and dead prostitutes, whilst his best buddy becomes mysterious and sinister, and his wife starts wondering where the money’s coming from and how she can get more of it. The film ends as it starts with Spencer getting killed by Mafioso-types in Malta (which is probably a nicer place to die than Maldon so you’ve got to count your blessings) (and that’s not a spoiler ‘cos it happens at the start), and with a twist or two so silly that they merely prove the writer was making it up as they went along.

    In the circumstances, the actors acquit themselves tolerably well, bearing in mind that (apart from Spencer) no-one seems to be the same person from one scene to the next (a problem exacerbated by many of the cast looking identical). This is particularly the case with Kris Johnson who excels (relatively) as a character with a curious trajectory: a nice guy next door who turns into a psycho Mafia boss without so much as a hint, or a scene where he’s tempted, nor is there a scene which shows how he’s secretly been scheming all along. Similarly there are women in the cast who are meant to be dull housewives one minute then Linda Fiorentino in The Last Seduction the next (unsuccessfully). Danniella Westbrook and Lucinda Rhodes are both efficient in thankless, not-quite-pointless roles (which is odd in the latter’s case as she’s a producer on the film but she selflessly plays a two-dimensional nonentity with apparent ease.) It’s always nice to see Eddie Webber, and proper actor Ian Burfield turns up to glower for a few moments.

    As the hapless, hopeless Spencer, Michael McKell is fine in the ordinary day to day scenes, but fails when he has to do big things, like a frankly terrible speech to his dead dad, or the bizarre kidnapping in a cemetery scene where everyone looks on as lunks abduct his brother and no-one reacts with anything more than a funny-old-world shrug. McKell sings the closing song, and I think he’s probably a decent pub singer (that’s more of a compliment than it might appear). But who is the mysterious whistler who adds a degree of pathos/monotony to proceedings?

    Even in the annals of the Essex/hooligan/gangster cycle, ESSEX VENDETTA is astonishingly inept, particularly compared with its spiritual cousin HOOLIGAN LEGACY. This makes Malta look dreary, and Essex even worse than usual. It even manages the rare feat of making the criminal lifestyle look like drudgery, which surely wasn’t the intention. And so the long wait for a moderately watchable home counties-based crime drama goes on. And on.

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