Essex Boys: Retribution review (Blu-ray)

Essex is a corner of England that's becoming known more and more for all the wrong reasons. Reality television shows, talentless 'celebrities' and an excuse to make films such as Essex Boys: Retribution. If John Carpenter taught us anything, it's that walling off a certain part of the country is not always a bad thing.

EB:R follows the fleeting careers of three brothers and their adopted chemist, who cook and push home-made class A drugs in the titular Home County. They're billed as the new breed of criminal; they only use violence when necessary,  know how to manipulate the police and are ready to call on their lawyer instead of a bat-weilding heavy to sort their problems. It's all sex, drugs and takeaway pizza for these boys until their good fortune inevitably starts to run out.
There are countless films that tell the story of how, in the end, crime does not pay. In many of them you can find yourself still hoping the outlaw will get away - but definitely not here. There is not a single relatable, redeemable or likeable feature about any of this quartet. In fact, it goes beyond that. You may find yourself actively disliking all of them and the only reason you will (possibly) stick with the film is the prospect of seeing their thoroughly-deserved downfall. Even that isn't satisfying enough when it does come.

One of the most frustrating aspects here is the idea that these scumbags are meant to be criminal masterminds.  There is nothing about any of them that suggests this could possibly be true, by any stretch of the imagination. They are mindless, reckless thugs that are only able to stay one foot ahead of the law because writer/director Tanter said so in the script.

Mike (Virgo) is the leader, an Essex boy with an impossible-to-ignore Welsh accent. Neil (Winsley) is the unpredictable psycho who does nothing unpredictable, while final brother Jon (Summercorn) is the womanising fraudster who cons and charms nobody. The only character with any consistency is Chalky (Esmail), who is supposed to be the chav-genius answer to Breaking Bad's Walter White, but really comes across as the only kind of person who could possibly relate to this film. It's juvenile, gratuitous, lacklustre and entirely without thought.
Billy Murray is the only big name here, playing the storyteller of the piece. Locked up in prison, he regales a journalist about the new Essex Boys under the proviso it's a tale that will not be reported. In the end, Tanter seems to be going for the kind of twist delivered superbly by Bryan Singer in The Usual Suspects, but it just doesn't come close to paying off here.

Admittedly, it does have a slick production that will be high-end compared to some of it's counterparts on the straight-to-video shelf. However, a cast unable to bring much needed charisma to wafer-thin material ensures that the bottom shelf is where this trip to Essex deservedly sits.


Mark Brennan

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