It became known as the Essex Boys Murders, one of the UK’s most notorious gang murders. On a snowy morning in December 1995, the bodies of three drug traffickers were discovered inside a Range Rover parked on a secluded, snow-covered farm track in the peaceful village of Rettendon.
The occupants of the car, Patrick Tate, Tony Tucker and Craig Rolfe, had all been gunned down in a triple murder that quickly made headlines.
Over 25 years later, there have been many awe-inspiring dramatizations, real detective books and documentaries about the massacre, or inspired by the stories of those who died or their associates. Many may argue more than necessary, but the audience is there.
The biggest franchise fueled by the events of Rettendon is Rise Of The Footsoldier, which debuted in 2007 and is now on movie number five: Rise Of The Footsoldier Origins. This time around, the film loosely tells Tucker’s origin story, with ultimate hardman Vinnie Jones joining the cast to play the role of reformed bouncer turned writer (and former Danny Dyer’s Deadliest Men star) Bernard O ‘ Mahoney, the man behind more than one of these books on the subject.
Drugs, violence, guns, hyper-cockney accents and more four-letter words than Adele and Dave Grohl’s Glastonbury sets put together, the films are typical British gangster fare.
However, O’Mahoney, who says he’s never looked any further than the first film because of how it glamorizes the lifestyle, says the rose-tinted lens has been removed to some extent for the last offer.
“I have always been politely anti-them,” he says. “In the previous movies – and I’m not just talking about the Rise of the Footsoldier movies, I’m talking about that kind of genre – the bad guys almost always win, and their lifestyle is described as very glamorous, with all these girls and C ‘is the description of a success story; they are usually killed in the end, but they have a great life along the way. “
In fact, that time in his own life was “a horrible time everyone was alone,” says O’Mahoney, and “the drug world is more like Trainspotting – lousy and dark and no one has money.” But it is usually “people who have never lived in this environment” who produce and direct the films, illustrating their idea of the way of life.
Origins, which has a new director, Nick Nevern, is different, he says. It “casts a darker cloud” over history.
“The reason I really like what Nick did with this movie is… they have a little glamorous life at first, but then the drugs kick in and it shows their rapid decline and [how] they abandon their mores, abandon each other, and loyalty goes out the window, and that, I think, hasn’t been shown in these movies before. And that’s exactly what happened. “
O’Mahoney was on set filming several scenes, but has yet to see the entire film. So, even if he’s right, there’s still an element of sparkle, and audiences are clearly meant to root for the characters and their grisly antics. Still, number five shows a darker side and will almost certainly be less “fun” than number four, Rise Of The Footsoldier: Marbella, who saw the gang on their joys in Spain.
While the 61-year-old initially refused to help research the film, he says the cast of Jones won it. “I thought this was their chance for revenge, they were going to get Barry out of EastEnders or something…” He laughed. “There are similarities between us in the looks. But they come back and said Vinnie Jones. I thought, well, at my age, I’m not going to say no to that.”
Jones, says O’Mahoney, didn’t need a lot of advice on how to play him. “How can I say that politely? I think he was a bit of a boy in his day so I think he knows how things work. I don’t think he needed to learn much, I thinks he’s wise enough himself. “
Craig Fairbrass, who played Patrick Tate throughout the franchise, had moved into more possibly critically acclaimed territory with recent films Muscle and Villain, and the upcoming Ire, when he received the call to return for number five. He’s refreshingly honest about the Footsoldier movies – “they’re not the nicest, they’re very violent, but fans love them” – and about his role.
“I’ve never deluded myself as an actor. I’m from London, I’m a certain height and a certain physique. It’s hard enough to get a job as an actor doing anything. either and I always said there was one thing worse than being cast, it’s not cast. ” Originally, he jumped at the chance to appear in the first movie, he says, because he read the script and “Pat Tate’s character jumped off the page – a big, horrible and powerful guy who takes liberties “.
But why are people so fascinated by such characters, and the stories surrounding these murders in particular? Fairbrass says he’s asked the question several times over the years he’s played Tate. “It’s not America, it’s England, so for three people to be shot at point blank range, murdered, in Essex in the middle of nowhere, there was an immediate fascination with this, this sort of mystery of who it was, who does it, how did it go?
“I remember someone saying to me at the beginning, ‘If they ever did a movie, you’d make a perfect Pat Tate.’ Then, like, 10 years later, I’m in the middle of a forest, soaking wet, drinking brandy, it’s freezing and snowing for real, and we’re doing the murder scene. “
Some fans of the movies think he has to be like his character, Fairbrass says, and he has to tell them that reality is “very different.” You are more likely to see the actor walking his little malshi dog than punching him.
“I just think there is a huge fascination on everyone’s part with anything to do with murder and crime, especially when it’s on your doorstep,” he says. “And because [the triple murder] It was so horrible and you don’t understand that every day … at the end of the day, they were gangsters, they weren’t the nicest people. “
O’Mahoney can attest to this, himself included at the time. The film portrays him as a balanced man, who can see when things go wrong.
If there’s one thing he wants viewers to know, he says, it’s “don’t do this at home” and that selling drugs “absolutely destroys families.” He fears that gang violence will “get worse and worse”, especially in London, with “children killing other children, you see in the papers, and that it all stems from the glamorization of it all. is not good”.
He’s not proud of his past and says he’s written the books he has to try to show the dark realities, rather than glamorize them.
“I’m 61 now and when I think back to the things we’ve been involved in… there are a lot of people in Essex who get up and look at themselves in the mirror everyday and think of me for all the bad Reasons People have been, you know, marked or injured.
“Looking back, the things that we have done and been part of is embarrassing. You know, how can you even think of doing [those things] to someone? Most were free. And it got horrible.
“I’m definitely not proud of it, certainly not. That’s why I love what Nick did with this movie. He put that side on it, you know, it’s not glamorous. Far from it. . “
Rise Of The Footsoldier Origins hits theaters September 3