The Football Factory
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Nick Love
with Danny Dyer, Frank Harper, Dudley Sutton, Neil Maskell, Roland Manookian, Jamie Foreman, Tamer Hassan, Anthony Denham, Calum McNab, John Junkin, Michelle Hallak, Alison Egan
release UK 21.May.04
04/UK 1h30

The heat of the battle: Dyer (center) gets stuck in

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the football factory Based on John King's bestselling novel about English soccer hooligans, this in-your-face film literally pulls no punches. It starts with a rush of energy and violence that continues right to the end, engulfing the characters in its wake. But it's impossible to engage with a film that's merely a gruelling trawl through the worst aspect of England's society.

We meet four generations of thuggish Chelsea fans: Tommy (Dyer) is in his 20s, continually waking up in the morning with no memory of the night before. His pal Rod (Maskell) takes care of him, and is looking for more from life. At 40, Billy (Harper) should be the leader of the "firm", but is far too hotheaded! Tommy's 70-something granddad (Sutton) was a WWII war hero before his football-fan days, and now all he can think about is retiring to Australia. And Zeberdee (Manookian) is a teen drug dealer who's far too keen to get his fists flying.

Filmmaker Love (Goodbye Charlie Bright) brings these characters to vivid life, but they're all so hateful, racist and idiotic that we don't like them at all! He's clearly going for a Trainspotting vibe, but he misses all the charm and ironic warmth. You can tell he's sometimes trying to be funny, but it's not easy to laugh at these intelligent men who simply refuse to engage their brains. Maybe this is because the cast play it straight; all are excellent, but only Sutton and Maskell are allowed to show soft shadings we can remotely identify with.

This attitude combines with pounding music and crashing editing to create a film so aggressive that it scares us into a corner--like having a gang of drunken lads enter our empty train carriage on the night their beloved team lost the big match. As shown here, the Chelsea and Millwall firms are medieval tribes bent on eliminating each other! As a clinical look at British violence, it's fairly gripping (although perhaps a bit out of date); the destructive cycle of alcohol, drugs, anonymous sex and expressive brutality is horrifying. Then when the film tries to give these men nobility as warriors, it's frankly offensive!

cert 18 themes, very strong violence and language, drugs 23.Mar.04

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... the football factory Chris B, Kent: 4.5/5 "Great portrayal of football hooliganism, a raw and gritty film." (14.Apr.04)

Jamie, Stevenage, Hertfordshire: 5/5 "I think that they picked just the right actors to play the roles they were given. One of the best films that i have ever seen. no other footabll film could beet it. the f***ing best." (29.Oct.04)

Jazzitup, glesga: 1/5 "Forgot that I saw this 'film' last year, but was unfortunately reminded of its existance recently in a bargain bin section of a high street retailer. Truly woeful, crass stereotypes largin' it up and not one character that you can identify with. It has the lofty aspiration of actually wanting to be a Guy Ritchie film, but at least Ritchie forms a plot. The same director and lead have been reunited for The Business which promises to be just as bad. Young idealist with high hopes gets in over his head in a world he knows nuffink abaaat! Please." (31.Aug.05)

2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall