Monday, 14 November 2011

Essex Boys (2000) How Terry Winsor utilises thriller conventions

Essex Boys (2000) (102min)
Directed by : Terry Winsor
Released on:  14th July 2000
Made in: UK
Genre: Gangster Thriller
Produced by: Miramax Home Video and Pathe-UK
Essex Boys is a film released in 2000, directed by Terry Winsor. The film stars actors, Sean Bean, Alex Kingston and Charlie Creed-Miles.  The film is based in Essex, around the events that occurred in 1995 which escalated to the murders of three drug Dealers.

Review from a user on imbd:
Brutal and disturbing,from start to finish.,2,July 2002

Author: from Devon, England
Sean Bean plays a gangster in this movie which is based on the real life range rover murders. Charlie Creed Miles stars as Billy, the gangsters driver who becomes involved with all of it.

It doesn't sound like a good movie,but when watching,the violence and the rape is so brutal that it will make you look away from the screen. Some people have never seen such violent men that if they watch this,they will turn it off half way through. The most disturbing thing is that these events did take place a few years ago.I won't spoil anymore of the film but all I can say is,this is what goes on behind closed doors in Essex.
The film is a british gangster thriller which is loosely based on the tale of what happened.You see Billy get drawn in and by the end of it we have sympathy for this character.The film is grim but worth a rent,it goes on for about two hours but is enjoyable and disturbing.I rate 3/5.

 I agree with this review as the film entails muchviolence, but it did draw me in, i enjoyed the film and agree that 'by the end we have sympathy for this character'  - Mandy Edmondson
Review by The Telegraph

This stylish British gangster film, set in and around Southend, stars Sean Bean and Tom Wilkinson as a couple of rival hoods, and is a good deal better written than you might expect. At least the people say things that people might say, and the plot, though it goes a bit awry, is full of details that lend credibility. In the second half, some of the characters begin to lose their power, mainly because the film's violence is endlessly trying to top itself. The young British actor Charlie Creed-Miles (who was brilliant in Nil by Mouth), plays a hapless taxi-driver caught up in a world he doesn't understand. This film shows him coming into his own in a big way. AOH

I agree that the actor Charlie Creed- Miles played his role well, even when he was completely silent. I disagree that the plot goes a bit awry; i found it well written and a very, compelling film.. - Mandy Edmondson

Overall Male and Female voted 6/10. Although males under 18 found the film more appealing by 0.2% because violent and gangster films are more appealing to males around that age as they are more interested in violence and films associated with it.


The film opens with a dark, black background; this instantly establishes that the film is within the thriller genre. It then uses non-diegetic sounds of scratches whilst showing us white lines on the screen. The black and white theme is using carascura lighting- light on dark.  It is a noir opening; it is creating a visually appealing effect. The lines resemble that of chalk or paint running down a black board, although when the non-diegetic sound is added to the picture, we are led to believe it is scratches being made on a car.  This automatically creates tension and creates an enthralling opening scene, as it leads the audience to believe the movie entails crime and violence.

The black background then fades and reveals to us the generic location that the opening scene is set in; a garage. Here the director has created a typical thriller scene by using a claustrophobic space which connotes isolation. Winsor has used a medium establishing shot along with chiaroscuro and noir lighting to influence the audience to feel the tension and surrealism. The fact that Billy is entrapped and isolated may be foreshadowing his emotions that he may later feel later on in the film due to the strain he is put under and the fear he experiences due to Jason.  These aspects indicate the film is noir, and uses the theme of corruption and violence.  Billy then switches the light on , to add non ambient lighting to the scene. Diegetic sounds have also been kept to add realism and make it believable.  This scene uses a fist person voiceover from Billy; that is used to explain the events that occur in the film from the characters point of view, but to also as an obvious cultural signifier; due to the recognisable Essex accent that Billy obtains. It is not something that is specific to this particular genre but is used in films none the less; for example ‘The Third Man’ in which voiceover is used effectively during the title sequence and is used to make the audience feel more engaged and closer to the action.
The camera cuts to Billy entering the car.  It then cuts to a still showing the windscreen whilst the window wipers wipe off filth and dirt from the screen. The shot then reveals to us a man standing to the left of the screen. In this shot we are first introduced to the character: Jason Locke. The way we are introduced to the character through the murky, dirty car windscreen, and that half of his body is immerged into the shadow; implies that Jason has ominous qualities and his moral corruption, can be considered as ‘dirt’. His costume tells the audience that he is a generic villain; his flamboyant orange shirt reveals that this character is confident and important in the film; his leather jacket is a generic signifier of the thriller genre. The voiceover also enables us to learn that Jason Locke is a character involves with crime and has recently been released from prison. The glass could also represent the barrier between the two characters, and the dirt being washes away suggests that Billy is making himself exposed to Jason.

Billy has offered to be Jason’s chauffeur for a couple of days. This shot shows Billy’s car entering the Dartford tunnel, this shot can link in with several aspects of the thriller genre, as the tunnel is again a generic convention of the thriller due to it’s claustrophobic, and enclosed space. This tunnel can be resembled to the barrel of a gun; this could mean that they are heading into corruption, danger and violence.  It is also used as a vanishing point, this could mean that Billy will eventually disappear, and become nothing.

 In this still it shows the lighting from the roof, reflecting on the windscreen of the car. These lights resemble prison bars; this could be foreshadowing Billy and Jason’s fate, a life of crime or prison. Terry Winsor has used this to make the audience wait in suspense to watch the rest of the film and to see what happens to both of the characters. There is also the non-diagetic sound of sirens are also occuring during this shot; which also reffers back to the bars and the concept of prison. This shot also shows that Jason look’s quite unhappy and maybe anxious as to what extent he is involved with Jason and his ‘business’, the light on his face could also communicate to the audience that Billy is a good person,but his innocence is shadowed by the violent personality of Jason who is in the dark at the back of the car, without a care in the world.

In this shot it shows Jason in a fish market, a scene which reveals to us the true extent of Jason’s violent nature. It is an environment which entails blood, guts and people. Jason attacks the man in public, this indicates that he doesn’t care about the consequences; he isn’t fazed by the thought of prison and he’ll do anything to get revenge.   

Here we see that Billy witness’s Jason throwing acid onto the man’s face through the wing mirror of the new van that Jason has required.  This shows that Jason is a man with no morals, and a dangerous one at that. He is also a part of a corrupt and dangerous social web, he is involved with crimes and capable of extremely violent crimes; this enhances the sense of threat and suspense.

The generic white van used in Essex Boys creates enigma, it is so generic that we are aware of its importance within the film. It is never revealed to us what is inside the van, which is what makes it enigmatic, just like in kill bill. Bill’s face is never shown, and that is the enigma within the Kill Bill volumes.  

There is a simple, clean establishing shot of the Essex Marshes; Jason has chosen this location to leave his victim. The marshes are bleak, but give a sense of isolation. The filthiness of the landscape can be compared with the situation in which Billy is entrapped. The Essex Marshes can be used as a representation of Jason’s character, as the marshes have no boundaries and Jason has no moral boundaries. The marshes are a vanishing point and are a bit enigmatic also, as we are aware that the tide will come in, and they will disappear. It is a primeval landscape, - one with no morals, which connotes danger. It is a wasteland, a ‘no man’s land’ this can be referred to the film ‘No country for Old Men’ when the desert is a wasteland also.

The photo on the left is of the landsape in 'No Country for Old Men', the right is of the Essex Marshes used in 'Essex Boys'. Jason and the hitman Anton Chigurh are both predatory and primeval; they have no moral landsape, their hunting grounds suggest the realm of a nightmare.


  1. A promising analysis. You have embedded appropriate screen shots which strengthen your points, you are able to interpret the significance of specific elements of mise-en-scene and make inter textual references.

    With further experience your ability to interpret film language should strengthen. Your facility to discuss the connotations of reflections and metaphors (the Dartford Tunnel shot as if it were the barrel of a gun) will also help you construct your own thriller whilst giving it depth.

  2. A great inter textual reference to "No Country For Old Men"....try to get an image from this film and set it alongside the screen shot fo the Essex
    arshes, Jason and the killer in the Coen Brothers film are pretatory/primeval and have no moral landscape, their hunting ground suggests the realm of nightmare.

  3. Could you post your analysis under G321 Research into thriller films. Thanks