Essex Boys (May 6/02)
The cover of Essex Boys contains a quote from some unknown critic, and brazenly points out that the film makes Reservoir Dogs look like puppy chow. Not quite.
The film is yet another one of those gangster pictures with an impossibly convoluted plot and stars a bunch of British people. The basic plot revolves around a young man new to the thug life, hired initially to be a driver but eventually promoted to more unlawful duties. Sean Bean co-stars as a fellow thug who's just done a lengthy stint in a British prison, and now wants to re-ingratiate himself into the life. On the opposite side of the coin is Tom Wilkinson, playing an enemy gangster who wants to deal with our troupe but finds out that there generally tends to be no honor among thieves.
Essex Boys is the sort of unoriginal gangster movie that seems to be far more prevalent now due to the success of fellow Brit directors like Guy Ritchie. Though unlike a movie like Snatch, Essex Boys contains a modicum of style and a whole lot of pointless dialogue. The movie comes off like a filmed play, with occasional side trips into violence. But the underlying problem with Essex Boys is that it's simply not interesting enough to sustain over 90 minutes of screen time. Despite a promising opening - with Bean's character splashing acid on the face of the man who sent him to prison - the film quickly becomes a routine story about double-crosses upon double-crosses and the various mobsters that are affected.
Among the actors, Wilkinson and Bean are clearly the most accomplished and seem to be having fun with these slight characters. But really, Essex Boys is content enough to trod upon well-paved ground, leaving little room for creativity. Skip it.