Sunday, January 08, 2006

Green Street Hooligans

You've seen them on television, and you've read about them in the news. Europe is particularly aware of folks who travel for football games amongst neighbouring countries, only to have them create trouble or duke it out with the locals or one another, if the results don't go their way.

While 2005 had a look at professional Premiership football with the movie Goal!, it's time the cameras took a look too at the supporters of the game. Not just any plain old armchair supporters, but really passionate ones, who live, breathe and eat football, and bond together to form Firms (i.e. gangs). Similar to mafias, triads, what-have-yous, Firms thrive on reputation. The bigger the stunt, or the fight, the bigger the reputation gets spread. And it's usually (as explained in the movie, though of course, in better light for West Ham United) the better teams having weaker Firms. I'd like that acknowledgement that Arsenal is the better footballing team, but having a terribly weak Firm, while Spurs are poor in both haha! We also learn what irks the Firms most, besides rival Firms.

Elijah Wood plays Matt Buckner, a Harvard journalism dropout for a misdemeanour he did not commit. He flies to London to meet up with his sister, and gets introduced to his brother-in-law's brother (duh) Pete Dunham. Pete's the head honcho of the Green Street Elite (GSE), the Firm of West Ham United, and I'd like the beginning of their budding relationship where Pete educates Matt on aspects of football (not soccer, mind you). The pot-shots at UK-US relations are hilarious, as we see Matt get introduced to the other core members of GSE. Of course him being a Yank doesn't endear him to GSE, but they're willing to overlook the point and give the rookie a chance to prove himself since he's brought in by Pete.

We only have one football match to watch (ala Goal!), as the rest of the movie focuses on Matt's transformation from wide-eyed newbie, to mean fighting machine. Elijah Wood didn't have much of a difficult job to do, as all he did was to continuously wear that scowl on his face for the second half of the movie. And it actually degenerates into some sort of UK-football version of Fight Club, where members of rival Firms whack the living daylights out of one another to prove their point. Perhaps co-star Charlie Hunnam did a better job as Pete, ringing home his performance as a leader, and a surrogate big brother.

The plot, to me, was engaging material, though it came with some predictable subplots like betrayals. It tries to make the point that violence begets violence, but doesn't offer any suggestions otherwise, because fanaticism in football is real and continuing issue that might seem to mar the sport. Some might deem this movie as romanticizing hooliganism, but it tried to balance those attempts by having a major character (pardon the pun) rationalize and play the devil's advocate.

I'm not sure why we had to rename this movie locally to "Football Hooligans". I know Green Street Hooligans might make some go Huh? But this is the internet age, where information is at the tip of your fingers, and all you have to do, is just to google it, or go visit (not as if I'm promoting it, but yeah, common sense). It's one thing having movies renamed worldwide (like Danny the Dog aka Unleashed), and another having a fiasco like "The Spy Who Shioked Me".

It's an interesting movie, with grand themes about not letting your buddies down, and for standing firm in what you believe in. Though the premise is controversial (brutal gang fights and all), it did seem like you're watching an updated, Caucasian remake of movies like A Better Tomorrow and Prison On Fire. Just remember to keep whatever inert tempers in check after leaving the theatre.


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