2005 - United States / United Kingdom - 109 minutes
Writers - Lexi Alexander, Dougie Brimson, Josh Shelov
Director - Lexi Alexander
My Rating - 4 of 5 Stars
Considering the World Cup matches now taking place, it's a good time to watch Green Street Hooligans - a very good sports movie but considerably more than just a sports movie. Elijah Wood plays Matt, a retiring, actually cowardly, Harvard student who is expelled just weeks before he is set to graduate because he is blamed for the possession of drugs that his roommate has hidden in his closet. Even though his father is a world-famous journalist who would have surely been able to save his college career, Matt chooses to slink away with his tail between his legs. He goes to England where his older sister lives with her husband and new baby. Matt's brother-in-law has a brother - Pete, play by Charlie Hunnam - who is a brute of a man. Through circumstance, Matt is given over to Pete's "care" on his first evening in England.
Pete takes Matt to the local pub where his football firm meets before each game. It seems that a football firm is just another name for a gang, but instead of using guns and knives as gangs do in the United States, the firm uses fists and blunt objects to enforce their territorial rights. There is a point made in the film by the members of the firm that they disdain the violence of gangs in the United States because - by using guns and knives - their encounters are not "honorable." They, instead, inflict "honorable" injuries - broken bones, concussions, bruises, lacerations, etc. upon their rivals.
The amazing fact about the members of the firm is that they are all "upright" citizens holding down respectable jobs and nurturing families. Pete is depicted to be a caring teacher. But when it comes to football, these "ordinary guys" turn into unbelievable monsters.
Matt, who has spent his life thus far as a repressed academic, is totally bowled over and entranced by the excitement created by these men in the bar before and during the football game. After the game, Matt is attacked by members of another football firm. Pete and the rest of his firm show up and insist upon revenge. Matt, at first, just tries to get away, but then is drawn into the violence and comes to the realization that he is able to inflict punishment upon his rivals - a feeling totally new to him.
Matt becomes a true member of the firm - much to the chagrin of his sister and brother-in-law. All of this plays out to expose complex relationships between Matt, his relatives, and the members of his own and a rival football firm that lead to tragic events.
Green Street Hooligans might have been just your standard coming-of-age story had it not been immersed in the world of hooligans. A look at a fascinating, albeit scary, sub-culture, exciting sports scenes, excellent acting, and superior directing make this film much more that "standard."
June 19, 2006