LONDON -- British cinema has a thing for crime films at the moment, but at least "Essex Boys" moves away from the commonly used central London locations and bases itself firmly in the nearby county of Essex. The film is also an extremely well-made crime drama, featuring tough but intelligent turns by the male leads and a charismatic, endearing performance by Alex Kingston as a shrewd "Essex girl". Her profile in NBC's "ER" may help the film's push into the U.S. market.
The incident at the core of "Essex Boys" -- a mysterious crime that saw three men shot to death in a Range Rover in a remote region of Essex -- is real. But the story line surrounding this incident and the characters are fictional.
Young taxi driver Billy Reynolds (Charlie Creed-Miles) is hired to drive Jason Locke
), a notorious local criminal who is just out of prison. As Jason sets about gaining revenge on various other tough-guy types, Billy finds himself drawn into the Essex underworld.
Meanwhile, Jason's long-
suffering wife Lisa Kingston
), dumped by her brutal husband, starts a secret affair with John Dyke (Tom Wilkinson), a gentlemanly criminal who also happens to employ the hapless Billy. As various gangs vie for control of the local drug trade, Billy realizes he has been drawn in too far. He finds himself driving Jason and his gang, who aim to slaughter drug couriers. In a shootout, he is saved by John, who then turns against the young driver when he finds out Billy has been seeing Lisa. John tries to kill Billy, which leads to the final twist and the revelation of Lisa's plotting.
Director/co-writer Terry Winsor
has worked mainly in television, but he clearly relishes the transition to the big screen. He uses color well, and he turns the glittering lights of Southend and the beach houses of Canvey Island into fine backdrops to this gritty crime film.
The script by Winsor and his producer Jeff Pope offers nothing startlingly original -- young man in too deep, nasty gang boss, wronged and vengeful wife -- but they give their characters enough depth to pull them away from the oft-used cliches.
Although Bean does a good job as the nasty crime boss, the real stars are Kingston and Creed-Miles. Kingston has to deal with stark sexuality and brutal violence, but she instills quiet dignity and steely determination into her character.
Producer: Jeff Pope
Director: Terry Winsor
Screenwriters: Jeff Pope, Terry Winsor
Executive producer: Pippa Cross
Director of photography: John Daly
Production designer: Chris Edwards
Editor: Edward Mansell
Costume designer: Sarah Lubel
Jason Locke: Sean Bean
Lisa Locke: Alex Kingston
Billy Reynolds: Charlie Creed-Miles
John Dyke: Tom Wilkinson
Peter Chase: Larry Lamb
Henry Hobbs: Terence Rigby
Wayne Lovell: Michael McKell
Nicole: Amelia Lowdell
Running time - 102 minutes
No MPAA rating