Essex Boys (2000)
Trailer-24 Hour Party People; Nine Queens; Cecil B. Demented
Trailer-The Debt Collector; Amores Perros
|Year Of Production||2000|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Terry Winsor|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.75:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired||Smoking||Yes, Occasional|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
There seems to have been quite a few "gritty" British gangster movies over recent years. Perhaps the huge commercial success of Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels has something to do with it. Essex Boys is another film in this vein. Indeed, the DVD cover insists that it is "In the tradition of..." the latter. Unlike Guy Ritchie's movies however, there is very little black humour in Essex Boys and after the initial ten minutes or so, it becomes a no-nonsense crime film, and a violent one at that. It claims to be based on a true story and is in fact a fictional tale of events that may have led up to the discovery of the bodies of three men, shot to death in a Range Rover in Rettendon, Essex in December 1995.
Terry Winsor's movie is set amongst the depressing marshes and seedy seaside resorts of Essex. Billy Reynolds (Charlie Creed-Miles) is a cabbie-in-training, and the film opens with him being hired to drive Jason Locke (Sean Bean) around on some "errands", following his release from prison after a five-year stretch for armed robbery. Billy realises within minutes of them crossing paths that Jason is an extremely violent man. The relatively good pay and the glamour of being part of a major underworld gang soon seduce Billy, and he becomes hopelessly trapped in a downward spiral of drug deals and violence.
Billy's life becomes ever more complicated as he sinks ever deeper into the mire of crime. John Dyke (the excellent Tom Wilkinson, Oscar nominated for In the Bedroom) adds another complex layer to Billy's criminal family life as he tees up a major drug importation via a makeshift airstrip in the wilds of Essex. Lisa (Alex Kingston) is Jason's girlfriend, with a hard edge to her that spells trouble for any man she comes into contact with. Crosses and double-crosses abound, and with dodgy drug deals and some fairly graphic violence there is a constant undercurrent of mistrust throughout the film. Unfortunately for Billy, his naiveté prevents him from working out where his loyalties should lie, and when to run for cover.
Essex Boys is a pretty violent British gangster film. Whilst the basic premise is not overly original, with more convolutions than a bag of Twisties it is absorbing enough, but can be slightly confusing. The characters are not as well developed as I might have liked so the film is heavily plot driven. There are a number of tense action set-pieces which, along with the double-crosses, help maintain the tension throughout. Some of the performances are very good, including that of Sean Bean, who seems to fit the wild-eyed psychotic role like an old glove and Wilkinson who manages to inspire just as much fear, despite his "country-gent" demeanour. Jason's girlfriend Lisa is also convincingly played by the rather attractive Alex Kingston.
The overall video transfer of this disc is good, with no major defects.
The film is presented in a (measured) aspect ratio of 1.73:1, altered only slightly from the 1.85:1 original theatrical ratio. It is not 16x9 enhanced.
The transfer has some slight grain evident, especially against light coloured backgrounds like sky shots. It is generally a little soft, but despite the lack of 16x9 enhancement, the overall image is still quite acceptable. Shadow detail is good, which is a blessing as much of the film is shot against the rainy streets and marshes of Essex. The night scenes exhibit good, extremely deep blacks with no significant low-level noise witnessed.
Colours are well rendered with no evidence of colour bleeding, even in the neon-lit night club scenes which crop up frequently. Skin tones are realistic throughout.
The transfer has no major MPEG artefacts. Aliasing is occasionally present on the usual suspects, but is not overly distracting (for example the scooter chrome at 73:22). I could find no major instances of edge enhancement.
Film artefacts crop up sporadically, and whilst occasionally more than a just a speck of dust, are not common or large enough to be a distraction.
There is a solitary English for the Hearing Impaired subtitle track present. This is in a yellow font which stands out well against the dark backgrounds. The titles are well timed and accurate.
This is a single sided, single layered (DVD 5) disc.
The overall audio quality of this disc is good. There are no significant audio defects.
There is a solitary English audio track available which is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 448 kbps.
Dialogue was very clear, although those not used to the occasionally strong accents may find some lines a little hard to make out. Sean Bean's accent sometimes slips a little, and he veers dangerously close to his native Yorkshire accent on occasion. Audio sync was not a problem.
The original music is credited to Colin Towns, who seems to have spent much of his career writing for television series. The music at the start of the movie sets the scene particularly well, and helps build a feeling of tension from the opening titles and maintains it through the remainder of the movie with an unsettling post-industrial jazz feel.
The soundstage is fully enveloping when the music kicks in and is nicely atmospheric. Ambient effects such as rain or nightclub chatter can often be heard through the surrounds, and panning across the front speakers is used well. Directional effects are noticeable, but it is the enveloping musical backing track which really makes the best use of all speakers.
The subwoofer was used to carry quite a lot of bass from the musical track and contributes some noticeable LFE effects from shotgun blasts, explosions and the like.
|Surround Channel Use|
There are negligible extras on the disc.
The menu is a posterized photograph of the DVD cover, with the evocative theme music playing quietly behind it. It allows the selection of playing the movie, selecting of one of sixteen chapter stops, activating the subtitles or the minimal extras.
Running for 1:44 and presented letterboxed at 1.78:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack (192 kbps). It is not 16x9 enhanced.
Five trailers for other Madman releases are offered, most with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 224 kbps.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 1 version of this movie is 16x9 enhanced. It is also a fairly bare-bones effort, and not being a Madman release, it obviously features different trailers:
Surprisingly, being a British feature, the Region 2 disc has the theatrical trailer as its sole extra, and is also presented with a letterboxed transfer. Due to the 16x9 enhancement, I would say the Region 1 is the preferred version.
Essex Boys is worth an evening's rental, particularly if you a fan of Bean - that's Sean not Mr Bean. The film is violent and a little confusing in the plot department but I found it to be an entertaining 98 minutes.
The video quality is fairly good, despite the lack of anamorphic enhancement.
The audio quality is very good.
The extras are almost non-existent.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-344 Multi-Region, using Component output|
|Display||Panasonic TX-47P500H 47" Widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Speakers||JensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer|