Based on the book of the same name by Bernard O'Mahoney (author of Essex Boys), Sacha Bennett's 2010 big screen adaptation of Bonded by Blood is set in the England of the mid-nineties and it begins with a powerful opening sequence in which two men make their way into a man's apartment and shoot him dead. This dead man, Darren (Adam Deacon), narrates the picture and fills us in on how and why he ended up this way and through a series of flashbacks that occur throughout the film and not always in chronological order, we learn his story and how it ties in with the other characters in the film.
As Darren narrates rather distantly, we meet two of the crooks he's been hanging around with, Mickey Steele (Vincent Regan) and Jack Whomes (Dave Legeno) who get involved with some business dealings made up of another group of guys - Pat Tate (Tamer Hassan), Tony Tucker (Terry Stone), and Craig Rolfe (Neil Maskel). Of course, when talking about gangsters, business dealings rarely go well and this time is no exception, particularly as it involves trafficking illegal narcotics, which leads to a few back stabbings, some betrayal, a good bit of violence, some death, and enough profanity to make Deadwood's Al Swearengen blush.
Profane almost to the point of parody, the profanity in this movie is laid on so thick that after about fifteen minutes or so it loses all effect and you simply become immune to it. Whether this helps the story or not is probably pretty debatable - there certainly are people who do speak like this in real life and you could probably assert that it gives the seedy characters that populate the film an earthiness. Since the characters aren't all that likeable in the first place, however, this may not be a good thing. Those expecting clear cut good guys and bad guys will be frustrated to find that this is, in fact, a movie populated only by bad buys. The fact that a few of the characters are said to be family men and fathers in their own right doesn't do anything to let us sympathize with them, and as such, by the time the movie gets to the finale and everyone starts shooting at one another, we don't care as much as the filmmakers had probably hoped we would.
Underneath all the f-bombs and c-words there's a half way decent story being told and the performances are quite good all around, but so much of it gets lost not just in the sensationalism of the dialogue but in the editing style as well that you can easily lose sight of this - don't bother with this one unless you can pay close attention, as it's not a good 'background noise movie' (not a complaint, obviously, but only to say that this one requires the audience to pay closer attention than others of its ilk). The thick English accents that the characters sport may also prove tricky to those not accustomed to such speech patterns, though obviously this is in keeping with the actual people who inspired these characters.
If you don't mind that the remarkably fast paced dialogue is so ridden with creative cursing and have no problem with the way that the story jumps around, you'll find quite a bit of good entertainment value here. In amongst the dirty deals and backstabbing nastiness are some effective moments of humor and some good, tense drama. The locations used add the perfect sort of seediness to the proceedings while the cast are all quite game and very good in their roles. That's enough to make this worth a watch for those who enjoy what the British can bring to the overdone gangster film.
While the 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is darker than you might expect it or want it to be in spots, this is otherwise a pretty decent representation of some spotty looking source material. The movie was obviously made with a gritty aesthetic in mind and this transfer replicates that well and uses a fairly dark color scheme throughout. Color reproduction is pretty decent and skin tones look natural enough while detail is about where it should be for a film like this. All in all the movie looks pretty good, though it won't send hardcore videophiles running into the streets to sing its praises.
Likewise the English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound is decent if not all that remarkable. There isn't much channel separation during the talkier and more dialogue intensive scenes, but some welcome rear channel activity and left to right front separation is obvious during the shoot outs. Bass response could be stronger than it is but it's there when the movie calls for it. Nothing to complain about here, really, the movie sounds fine.
Director Sacha Bennett and producers Terry Stone and Daniel Toland offer up a pretty interesting commentary track that covers most of the points you'd expect it to. They talk about putting the project together, finishing the script, changes that were made, character development and casting and detail some of the locations they used. It moves at a good pace and is delivered with a jovial enough vibe that it's easy to listen to and rather informative at that.
From there, check out the interviews, the first of which is a nine minute piece with Bernard O'Mahoney who wrote the book that the film was based on. Here he talks about his personal experiences in the London underworld and about different events and people that inspired his book. Thirteen minutes of cast and crew interviews allow the principal actors and Bennett to talk briefly about their respective contributions to the picture but sadly don't go as in-depth as they could have. Two brief featurettes, The C Word and Welcome To Tony Tucker's Mansion are basically just gags and worth watching one for a laugh but add very little otherwise. There's also two minutes of footage from the film's premiere and over twenty minutes of random B-Roll Footage that gives us a look at what the crew was dealing with while making this picture.
Those with an affinity for modern English gangster movies will likely eat this one right up and have no trouble whatsoever looking past some of the film's flaws, while more discerning viewers might be on the fence about it. Bonded By Blood definitely has no small amount of entertainment value to offer and the disc from Revolver is solid enough, but a bit more focus on the characters would have helped this one quite a bit. As it stands, it's still a movie worth seeing and comes recommended for that reason.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.