Today: February 22, 2024

Bonded By Blood DVD

‘Gun’s, Gangs, Girls & Gear’ would be a good sub-title for
the third film, in a decade, about the notorious true story of Essex’s most
brutal gangsters and the cold-bloodied murder of the three of them. It was first
depicted, in 2000, in Terry Windsor’s Essex Boys and then, in 2007, with Julian Gilbey’s
Rise of the Foot Soldier. Now actor/director/screenwriter Sasha Bennett has
decided to take a pop at it, himself, with Bonded by Blood. But can he do any

It’s 1995, and, after a stint in prison, Mickey Steele (Regan),
Jack Whomes (Legano), David Nicholls (Deacon), Basildon night club owner Toney
Tucker (Stone), bouncer Bernard O’Mahoney (Palmiero) upon whom the original book the
film is based, Pat Tate (Hassan) and side-kick Craig Wolfe (Maskell)
together sourcing drugs, forcing dealers to buy only off them in order
to sell
in their clubs. It quickly becomes clear quite that, in this operation,
there is
a divide between the coke-sniffing, womanising, violent Tucker and and
Tate, to the rest of the gang, who prefer to keep their heads down. To
add fuel
to the fire, Tate’s wife find solace in Steele’s arms after he beats her
and gives her the boot.

As almost an acknowledgement that its predecessor, Rise of
the Foot Soldier
, fell far short of the mark, some of its cast – Terry Stone,
playing the same character, and a slimmer Neil Maskell, who lost over six stone
for the role – re-unite in Bonded by Blood for a second go at the
story. Being
based on a true story never saved their first attempt from falling in to
stereotypical brit-gangster-flick status and as the trio, led by Tate,
snorting just as much coke as they are selling, and morph into paranoid
crazies; Bonded by Blond doesn’t completely avoid this either. However,
manages to turn away from the violence to character-building, avoiding
being simply gratuitous. When Tate, along with Tucker and Wolfe,
torture a man accused of sleeping with Tate’s wife, forcing him to sniff
cocaine, burning him with cigarettes and urinating on him
, the scene does not feel glorified.

Bennett dramatises the real-life events with Tucker
living in a £10 million mansion, instead of the £1 million pile that he really had, dressing
characters in sharper suits whilst they drive better cars. Nevertheless,
Bennett still can’t shake the drab made-for-TV look that plagues the whole film
and which was the same in Rise of the Foot Soldier and Essex Boys. Maybe it’s impossible to glam up Essex
in winter.

These two previous films never managed to pull off the story
onscreen and while Bennett’s version is undoubtedly better with good acting,
it lacks tragedy in the final killing of Tate, Tucker and Wolfe. These men are
fathers, husbands but it’s never shown the effect that their deaths’ have on their

Although Bonded by Blood promises to separate myth from fact
– the truth is, no-one knows what happened to those three men, or no one knows what
to believe. The justice system decided to believe one story, despite that the two, that were
jailed for the murders, persistently deny and appeal their sentences. Should
Bennett’s interpretation be believed?

What this film
does, that Rise of the Foot Soldier doesn’t, is look in more detail to the
specific events leading up to the murders and successfully creates suspense,
but ends in an anti-climax. The film tries to be more spectacular
than it can pull off.

It begs the question:
what is so fascinating about the death of these cold-hearted drug-fuelled
killer’s? Perhaps it’s the sheer mythology of their story – it all has
to be imagined and pieced together from the mouths of third parties and re-created
by the filmmaker. Again and again. Maybe one day someone will get it bang on.

Marcia Degia - Publisher

Marcia Degia, who has worked in the media industry for more than 20 years, is the Publishing Editor of KOL Social Magazine. See website:

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