Brisk addition to the British gangster franchise dials down the misogyny and ups the dramatic stakes

Rise of the Footsoldier: Vengeance

This is the sixth instalment in this very British, peripheral gangster franchise set in the 1990s, and maybe I’m going soft but it feels like the quality of the film-making has gone up a skoosh since the last effort, Rise of the Footsoldier: Origins. There is still a lot of repetitive fighting, stabbing and killing sequences – the fans wouldn’t watch if there weren’t – but this time round the script by Andrew Loveday and Jason Maza has more focus and dramatic heft. There’s less crude misogyny (although ladies in lingerie still abound on the fringes of the screen thanks to scenes set in strip clubs), and there’s even an outright queer-sympathetic plot line about a boxer named Billy the Kid (Ben Wilson) who moonlights as a drag queen but is afraid to tell his butch Scottish dad (Stephen McCole).

Nevertheless, the bulk of the movie trudges around Essex and London’s Soho in the wake of the franchise’s now regular protagonist, Tate (Craig Fairbrass) – who is yet to meet the gruesome fate foretold for him in the first film, made in 2007 but set in 1995 and inspired by the real-life Rettendon murders. This film unfolds in the early 1990s so there can’t be many more films to go, even though the ending sets up another sequel. Anyway, at this point in the larger story, Tate is pulling armed robberies with his associate Kenny (Josh Myers), who is none too bright and nearly gets them both pinched in a hit on an armoured vehicle early onafter a particularly lethal incident, Tate sets out to reap, as per the title, vengeance.

Indeed, the seeking of vengeance happens in all these Footsoldier movies, so why bother putting the word in the title? They might just as well have called it Rise of the Footsoldier: Blokes With Guns, or Rise of the Footsoldier: Nobody Smiles, both of which would have been equally applicable.