By midlandsmovies, Feb 16 2017 06:30PM
Essex Heist (2017)
Dir. Steve Lawson
From a self-confessed filmmaker who hasn’t seen a modern British gangster film as well as filming this movie entirely in the Midlands region, Leicester director Steve Lawson is a brave man taking on new flick Essex Heist. However, he does a pretty spot on job of recreating the wide-boy bravado of a host of ‘mockney’ gang flicks even without the previous experience of the genre.
We follow Jez of Prestige Motors who works for gang boss Terry Slade with cheeky mechanics Clive and Daveyboy as they do dodgy deals on motors. Hearing a story from Andy (“who came down from Nottingham”), he knows that his boss is on his way through town (down from Nottingham as well of course, ha ha) with cash that is just asking to be stolen.
With Snatch-esque scratched out freeze frames and a few flashes of skin, Essex Boys is aiming at a very specific demographic and mostly hits the right notes if you’re a fan of geezers and girls.
A long opening conversation against a grey brick wall is not the most engaging way to open your film but sets up all the characters yet it’s hilariously obvious, as someone born in Essex myself, that most of the actors haven’t even set foot in the county. Their accents ranging from the North to Northern and as far down as the Midlands.
The film does liven up with the heist itself – in many ways the film could have (or should have) started at this point – and with quick pans and handheld camera the audience will feel more engaged with the visual style used here. When the obligatory heist goes obligatory awry, the film sets up a possible double-cross as the gang try to find where the money has gone after the large sum is replaced by blank pieces of paper.
Some post-heist warehouse torture and gun stand-offs echo similar scenes in Reservoir Dogs as the gang start to accuse each other and fall apart as they fight over the whereabouts of the missing cash. A few fun fist fights are littered throughout and the director throws in a large amount of blood and splatter too.
Sadly, this film didn’t entirely warm to me owing to the unconvincing characters, who are forced to deliver long lines of dialogue to explain plot rather than the script showing it to us, whilst the inclusion of stock music rather than a hip soundtrack is a bit of a misstep.
As a piece of local filmmaking though it is admirable again to see a local director spreading their wings into new territories; here Lawson is building upon chase drama Survival Instinct and creature feature KillerSaurus. He’s aware of the genre – cheeky (then violent) mechanics, lots of swearing, machismo, voiceovers and gang loyalty are all here is spades and help sell the illusion.
As the film twists to its conclusion, the obvious low-budget nature of the film either becomes part of its charm or a limitation that brings the film down but this will depend on your pre-disposition to silly b-movie thrills. This lack of depth will allow genre fans to enjoy Essex Heist's superficial action-drama about angry young men scrapping but may frustrate others with its lack of bona fide charisma.
Midlands Movies Mike