Fans of the preposterous low-budget British crime saga Rise of the Footsoldier have plenty to worry about. There’s the series’ Rotten Tomatoes score, which has oscillated from a high of 88% to a horrible low of 23%. There’s the sad realisation that Shaun Ryder won’t be in any of the new films, after he was so memorably stabbed to death with a lightbulb in the last one. And now they have a name change to contend with.
Next week’s fourth instalment had originally been titled Rise of the Footsoldier: Marbella. But now, in a last-minute reverse ferret, it is to be called Rise of the Footsoldier: The Spanish Heist. Why? Perhaps producers were worried the original title was too geographically specific, or that it didn’t explicitly promise dumb violence. Maybe this new one is just easier to pronounce.
But one thing is for certain. A name change of any kind is more often than not a bad thing. Look at what happened to Ford v Ferrari. That was a great title for a film. Two great car brands – one a workaday populist, the other an expensive status symbol – facing off against each other. You saw the title Ford v Ferrari and you knew exactly what the film was about.
Except it isn’t called Ford vs Ferrari in the UK. Here it’s been changed to Le Mans 66, which is just about the worst title ever given to a film. It’s simultaneously more specific and more obscure, plus it ends with a number. You’ll remember that the play The Madness of George III was retitled as The Madness of King George when it was adapted for the screen, so as not to alienate people who might think it was the completion of a trilogy. The same could be said here. Why am I going to watch Le Mans 66 if I haven’t seen all first 65? Worse, will I have to do a French accent when I ask for a ticket? Because I don’t shop at Hotel Chocolat for exactly that reason.
This sort of thing infuriates me. When a film’s title is changed for the UK market, it dilutes its creative impact. The screenwriter wrote the film with a title in mind. It was produced and marketed everywhere else in the world with that title, but then it hits these shores with a new name and a slightly shoddier title sequence. Back in 1987, Harry and the Hendersons was Harry and the Hendersons until it came here, at which point it became Bigfoot and the Hendersons because apparently we’d have struggled to tell that it was a film about a Bigfoot, despite the poster having a giant bloody Bigfoot on it. Yes, I’m still sore.
There are other examples. When it was theatrically released here, Bonnie and Clyde was given the unnecessarily explanatory title Bonnie and Clyde … Were Killers!
Battle: Los Angeles became World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles, because presumably British viewers wouldn’t care all that much if only Los Angeles was wiped off the map by an army of bloodthirsty aliens. I’m still furious about having to ask for a ticket to see Avengers Assemble, in case someone at the cinema got confused and accidentally ushered me into a screening of The Avengers, the 1998 Ralph Fiennes adaptation of a TV show about a man with a deadly umbrella.
In fairness, it does work the other way. Ice Cold in Alex was marketed in the US as Desert Attack, which robs the film of all its charm. And Jason Statham’s 2013 film Hummingbird was retitled Redemption in the US, after a marketing executive realised that Americans only like films that sound like they’ve been coped from aspirational vinyl wall decals.
But not every film that’s had its name messed about with is bad. Take Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow. It originally had the much better title All You Need Is Kill, after the book it was adapted from, before wimping out with an incredibly vague new name. It was so bad, in fact, that the name was changed again – to Live Die Repeat – for the DVD release. And it’s a great film, even though nobody really knows what it’s actually called any more.
So Rise of the Footsoldier: The Spanish Heist needn’t worry. Just because it has a new name, it doesn’t mean that this new instalment won’t contain the same highly nuanced character work of the previous three Rise of the Footsoldier films.
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