Review by Jack Foley
NICK Love’s second film about football violence is probably his most accomplished to date… but it’s also fundamentally more of the same.
A remake of Alan Clarke’s 1988 TV movie, which made a name for Gary Oldman, The Firm is described by the director as his most personal work – one that reflects his own feelings and experiences of being part of that culture at a young age.
But while it does show a surprising amount of restraint in its depiction of violence and is different enough from the original to justify Love’s decision to revisit it, the film still falls into the same traps as most films in the genre.
What’s more, it’s hard to imagine who will go and see it apart from those people Love is allegedly seeking to point the finger at, especially in light of the film’s hip, stylish approach.
The plot unfolds from the perspective of Dom (Calum MacNab), a young lad who is attracted to the dangerous world of West Ham’s firm’s top hooligan, Bex (Paul Anderson), after a chance encounter in a nightclub.
At first excited by the prospect of being part of a new family and thrilled by the edgy provocation of the tussles that occur between rival firms, Dom quickly finds himself out of his depth as Bex’s seething hatred for rival leader Yeti (Daniel Mays) spirals out of control.
The question is whether Dom will be able to walk away before it’s too late.
Love’s film seems to exist for the thrill of the fight, despite taking its time to deliver any really bruising encounters.
There’s a sense of expectation throughout that invites the audience to experience and participate in the rush of the release of violence, no matter how chaotic, frightening and authentic his actual depiction of it remains.
While his decision to employ a hip soundtrack and play up the fashion suggests that he wants viewers to have a good time rather than hitting them with anything really shocking or thought-provoking.
Had he chosen to concentrate more on the victims rather than the protagonists Love may have had a better case for presenting a truly alternative look at football violence.
But while there are some nice moments between Dom and his loving mum and dad (nicely played by Eddie Webber and Camille Coduri), and a truly shocking scene involving a Stanley knife and Bex’s toddler son that emphasises the stupidity of Bex’s situation, these aren’t enough.
A belated attempt to deliver an optimistic ending also feels false.
The Firm, at its heart, is a film about the camaraderie and loyalty that exists between gang members that struggles to convince us it’s not really admiring of it in some way. Love, himself, admits to being fascinated by it still, even though he claims this film will draw a line under the subject for him.
Of the performances, Anderson emerges from Oldman’s shadow in convincingly nasty fashion, MacNab channels the excitement, bravado and eventual fear of his predicament well and Mays again stands out as Yeti.
But this feels like too much of a good time movie to really convince us that Love has mended his ways, which is still likely to appeal most to the film-goers that have supported his prior releases.
Running time: 90mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: February 1, 2010
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Nick Love interview
- Paul Anderson, Calum MacNab and Daniel Mays interview
- The Firm photo gallery