Low-brow and sunny sequel to the prequel to the original in the series, Rise of the Footsoldier: Marbella is entertaining though kind of pointless.
Rise of the Footsoldier was a serious biopic/drama looking at the career of Carlton Leach from football hooligan to Essex gang leader, and leading up to the deaths of three associates of his in the so-called Rettendon murders. Rise of the Footsoldier: Marbella (aka Rise of the Footsoldier: Spanish Heist, aka Rise of the Footsoldier 4) is not serious, not a biopic, barely a drama, and has nothing to do with Carlton Leach, or indeed gangland footsoldiers. In fact, it’s largely a farce, and so is the use of the Footsoldier franchise name.
The original Rise of the Footsoldier was an impressive (if brutal) exploration of how criminal careers can develop and their impact on the lives of others around them, which ended with the deaths of Tony Tucker (Terry Stone), Patrick Tate (Craig Fairbrass) and Craig Rolfe (Roland Manookian). The second looked at the impact of these deaths on the main man, Carlton Leach. But those secondary parts had been so popular in the first film, and so sorely missed in the second, that they got a prequel in Rise of the Footsoldier 3: The Pat Tate Story, and now that prequel has a sequel. All clear?
Patrick Tate was shown to be a vicious drug dealer in the first film, and not just violent, but with an exceptionally short fuse. He was clearly business-savvy, having built up a network of rave/club outlets, and it is genuinely unknown why he and his sidekicks were killed: it could have been police, criminal rivals or double-crossed customers. By the end of Rise of the Footsoldier: Marbella, I’m wondering how on Earth Tate could have developed any kind of empire, especially with the help of Tony and Craig: they all seem to be bumbling idiots. And I’m inclined to think some kind of stupid mistake got them killed.
This latest film is full of stupid mistakes. “Essex is running out of pills”, apparently, so Pat Tate follows a lead to a decent supply in Spain, hoping to take revenge on those who were involved in his ending up in prison in the last film while he’s there. Shortly after arriving in Spain, Pat goes to Frank Harris’s house to confront him, only to find out someone else has been living there for two years and asks her to call him a taxi! He does a bit of networking and gets a bodyguard gig to pay towards a cut of a drug shipment, but has to call Tweedledum and Tweedledee over from the UK with some more dosh. But between them, Tony and Craig manage to book the wrong flight and lose their money. Just a couple of examples.
Tony had a significant presence in the first film, as Leach’s friend, colleague, and confidante. Pat was more of a hurricane, making an impact with his abrupt and unpredictable temper (attacking a disrespectful takeaway worker with a pizza cutter, for example). Craig was minor in comparison, distinctly the junior member of that trio. They are all roughly the same in character now, but Pat seems to have dulled somewhat: he still has a temper and can still be violent, but doesn’t quite go from naught to mental in ten seconds. Tony seems to want him to mellow even more, not worry about business, take a chill pill or two and relax; in Rise of the Footsoldier, he was much sharper than he comes across here.
These three are all still nasty crooks, but the Spanish sunshine seems to suit them: although every other word is four letters long, and every other encounter leads to blood or bonking, it all takes place with a chuckle and a swagger. Perhaps humanizing them is supposed to make them seem less like bad guys. The sets and budgets have clearly got bigger too, with some gorgeous drone shots over sparkling landscape scenes. The acting and dialogue have not improved, though, but they didn’t really need to: like old late-night spin-offs from Hollyoaks, this is some of the old crowd given a story of their own in a different setting.
As I mentioned at the start, Rise of the Footsoldier: Marbella has hardly anything to do with the first two Rise of the Footsoldier films, and for me, this is a proper gripe. The first two (especially the first) were interesting as well as entertaining, based on a real person’s life and memoir; after them, the “series” gets into utter speculation, nay fiction, and I do not think these later films should have shared a name with the original ones. Frasier wasn’t called Cheers: Frasier and Torchwood wasn’t called Doctor Who: Torchwood. Like those, this film has a different character (and perhaps different audience) to its predecessors, is entertaining in its own way; but it deserves its own identity. After all, the first two films were about Carlton Leach; these latest two have centered on Pat Tate.
Alix has been writing for Ready Steady Cut since November 2017. They cover a wide variety, including genre festivals, and especially appreciates wit and representation on screen.