Movie Review: Bonded by Blood (2010)
“The Truth, The Whole Truth and Nothing but the F**king Truth!”
Bonded by Blood (2010)
Director: Sacha Bennett
Cast: Vincent Regan, Tamer Hassan, Terry Stone
Synopsis: The story of the true-life gangland murders of three Essex drug dealers in 1995
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Criminal enterprises are, by their nature, very private affairs, but every so often they spill over into the public eye and, like the butler peering through the keyhole, we greedily lap up every sordid detail. That’s why the murder of three drug dealers on a snowy country lane in mid-December 1995 has spawned countless books and three movies: it gives ordinary people a safe glimpse into a world to which entry is normally barred – and to which, no doubt, a fair few secretly aspire.
Arriving fifteen years after the story of the Rettendon Murders exploded across Britain’s tabloids, Sacha Bennett’s Bonded by Blood is the weakest of the three versions. It’s not a bad movie, but director Sacha Bennett struggles to depict the exploits of his violent antagonists without glorifying their lifestyle. Pat Tate (Tamer Hassan – Batman Begins, Kick-Ass), Tony Tucker (Terry Stone – Ten Dead Men – playing the same character he played in The Rise of the Footsoldier) and Craig Rolfe (Neil Maskell – Kill List, Pusher) career through life with a single-minded determination to use intimidation and violence to claim anything and anyone they desire. It’s not a life of impunity, exactly – Tate and fellow criminal Mickey Steele (Vincent Regan – Snow White and the Huntsman) are seen doing time, although it’s strongly implied that even inside they know how to play the system. Banged up with them is young Darren Nicholls (Adam Deacon – Wilderness), one of those perpetually angry young men who barge through the world with a scowl on their face and a chip on their shoulder. The story is seen through Nicholls’ eyes, even though he plays only a peripheral part in the events leading up to the triple-murder.
This strange decision by Bennett and co-writer Graeme Muir might have something to do with the written coda at movie’s end which, rather bizarrely, makes it clear that although they show Steele and Whomes committing the murder, the film’s makers don’t believe they were actually the culprits. It’s a statement that appears to contradict all that we’ve been shown up to that point – until one considers that what we have seen is Nicholls’ version of events, and that by showing him as being absent for long stretches of the story, Bennett and Muir cast doubt on the testimony which convicted Steele and Whomes.
Whoever killed the three men, we’re left in little doubt that the world is a better place following their departure from it. They were brutal thugs lacking both morality and a sense of loyalty. Most actors can’t resist such characters simply because it gives them the chance to deliver a showy, expansive performance, which is exactly what Hassen and Stone do. Both men embrace their roles with an enthusiasm that gives a real sense of the swaggering bullies Tate and Stone were, but it’s Neil Maskell’s more subdued interpretation of their comrade-in-arms, Craig Rolfe, that catches the eye; when he buys weapons from a dealer unwisely planning to cheat him, he leaves us in no doubt of the deep unpleasantness of which Rolfe is capable without having to raise his voice or move a muscle. With Tate and Stone the threat of violence is a show of braggadocio, but for Rolfe it’s a tool of his trade.
Bonded by Blood is a watchable enough movie (as long as you’re not bothered by excessive cursing), but it adds little to the ground already covered by the earlier Essex Boys and Rise of the Footsoldier, and feels too much as if it secretly admires the lifestyle it claims to condemn.
(Reviewed 14th January 2017)