Bonded by Blood review (DVD)

Crime author Bernard O'Mahoney's telling of the true story of the December 1995 triple murder in Rettendon, Essex has been the subject of three feature films in the last decade, ever since the publication of his book Essex Boys in 2000, the title of which became the first of the three movies. Rise of the Footsoldier followed in 2007, and now we have Bonded by Blood, again based on a book of the same name by O'Mahoney.

The film follows the criminal exploits of a band of gangsters who, once released from prison, immediately set about taking and dealing hard drugs once again. Lead by the hotheaded Pat Tate (Hassan), the group of long time 'business partners' are soon divided when his addiction to a multitude of narcotics sends him over the edge, and a bum deal acts as the straw that breaks the camel's back as far as his friendship with Mickey Steele (Regan) goes. Sticking with Tony Tucker (Stone) and Craig Rolfe (Maskell) as they embark on a binge of sex, drugs and violence, the trio conspire to take Steele out of the picture in what they see as a form of revenge, only they're not alone in their deadly plotting.

While Bonded by Blood takes a different angle in its storytelling to Essex Boys and the acclaimed Rise of the Footsoldier, all three films lead up to the same climax of the actual historic murders and so it makes you wonder if this production was really necessary, especially in such close proximity to the others. Still, it's surprisingly good. The recent spate of British gangster movies, especially those made independently, has, let's say, produced a lot more bronze than gold. Seeing all these Danny Dyer-starring clones on the new releases shelf in the shops is getting extremely tedious, and so this incarnation of low-budget British film-making is refreshingly decent.

Although it's hard to like the characters you're supposed to, on the flipside it's incredibly easy to hate on the antagonists, especially Tate. The central characters are all strongly defined and have a stellar cast to support the quality of writing that has shaped them, even if just about every word that comes out of their mouths are four letters long and begin with either C or F.

It's not an effort as commendable as Rise of the Footsoldier (a film which actually shares a number of cast members with Bonded by Blood, including Terry Stone who even plays the same character in both) like the quote on the cover art proclaims, but this Scarface-esque story of society's greedy and disillusioned, whose vices are fuelling them with the idea that they bear some kind of immortality, is far from yet another disposal Brit flick about guns and drugs and is most definitely worth a watch.

EXTRAS ??? An interview with crime author Bernard O'Mahoney, who wrote the book the film is based on; cast and crew interviews; a behind the scenes featurette; The C Word: a feature which... well, take a wild guess; Welcome to Tucker's Mansion: a look at the magnificent house used in the production of the film; a short feature showing the world premiere and after party; b-roll footage; the original theatrical trailer; and an audio commentary with director Sacha Bannett, star Terry Stone and producer Dan Toland.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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