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Overall Rating
3.97

Awesome45.16%
Worth A Look: 32.26%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 19.35%
Total Crap: 3.23%

2 reviews, 19 user ratings


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Football Factory, The
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by Stephen Groenewegen

"Energy to burn"
4 stars

John King’s cult novel The Football Factory has the force of a punch to the stomach. It puts you inside the head of a London football hooligan. King doesn’t politely invite you into this vicious male subculture - he gives you no choice. Start reading and you’re trapped as forcibly as if he held a gun to your head. Nick Love’s film adaptation doesn’t have the same power or intensity as King’s prose, but it still carries an intoxicating reek of testosterone.

Tommy Johnson (Danny Dyer) is white, in his late 20s, Londoner born and bred. He’s intelligent and dressed in the latest clothes, sullen, but “boy next door” handsome. He’s also a Chelsea Headhunter, a member of an unofficial gang of Chelsea Football Club supporters. The Headhunters aren’t fans exactly; their all-male tribe has an intricate and brutal code of loyalty and conduct more akin to a gangster’s Mob. Ranging from drug-peddling teenagers to middle-aged men, their primary interests are “thieving, fucking and fighting”.

Football barely comes into it. Love’s screenplay cleverly omits the sport almost entirely from the movie. The FA Cup draw is a momentous occasion for the Headhunters but not to learn which team Chelsea will be playing on the field. That’s almost incidental. What matters is which opposing firm the Headhunters will be pummelling after the game. On whose turf Chelsea plays is also important; like any pack of animals, the Headhunters are fiercely territorial.

Love’s adaptation, like King’s book, serves as a fascinating sociological study of, shall we say, an extreme lifestyle. But it’s also about the people caught up in it. The best thing about the movie is that Love’s characters rise above stereotypes. Most of the time, you don’t know what they’re going to do next. That’s what makes them terrifying, along with their lack of fear and scant respect for societal conventions. Most predictable of the group is Billy Bright (Frank Harper), the chief bully and a none-too-bright fascist who’s as volatile as Joe Pesci’s trigger-happy goon in Goodfellas.

Tommy’s our tour guide. Initially, I thought Danny Dyer was too young and soft looking for the role. But it’s inspired casting. His youthful good looks are disarming; you don’t expect him to have a potty mouth and chauvinistic streak a mile wide (thankfully, Tommy’s rampant misogyny and homophobia have been toned down from the book). Dyer pulls off a tricky balancing act in his first leading role. Tommy is never someone I’d like to meet in a dark alley, but he’s also not so repellant that I lost interest in what happened to him. The rest of the cast are all fine, and Love and casting director Sam Chandley deserve credit for filling the movie with authentic-looking supporting players and extras.

The movie begins with Tommy being kicked repeatedly in the head and backtracks three weeks as he ponders “was it worth it?”. He’s assessing his life for the first time, prompted by the warnings of his old granddad (Dudley Sutton) and spurred on by nightmarish premonitions of his death. Fighting gives Tommy a buzz and is a release from a humdrum life. Till now, he’s regarded the Headhunters’ exploits as “having a laugh”. But, approaching 30, is it time to pack it all in and settle down?

Tommy’s dilemma is an attempt by Love to pull a clear narrative thread out of King’s maelstrom. Love also invents a teenage hoodlum hanger-on to give us four generations of men in the story and to more clearly delineate Tommy’s past, present and possible future. But the generational theme is an obvious contrivance, and Love is unable to use it to create poignancy (compare the pathetic old rugby talent scout in Lindsay Anderson’s This Sporting Life). We spend too much time, too early, establishing granddad’s life when it is really peripheral to the rest of the action.

Tommy is only one of a crowd, and his misadventures aren’t enough to drive the movie. So The Football Factory is messy and somewhat misshapen. Still, that doesn’t matter as much as it should, because the movie recalls the book so strongly and has energy to burn. Rockstar Games executive produced. Unsurprisingly, the violence sometimes has the routinised feel of a computer game.

Love and cinematographer Damian Bromley play all manner of camera tricks and choreograph the mayhem to a pulsing techno soundtrack. Rather than put you in the characters’ shoes, this has a distancing effect. King’s book gets inside you. This movie will likely leave you shaken, but not stirred.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=9644&reviewer=104
originally posted: 10/13/04 13:09:17
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User Comments

9/28/06 MIKE F fukin mint film this 5 stars
5/12/06 oskido fuckin top draw 5 stars
10/03/05 haha bad boy movie 5 stars
7/31/05 Mark Strijbosch Londoners at their finest:D 4 stars
6/03/05 busby fuckin class film...recomend it to anyone. ps. danny dyer is gorgeous! 5 stars
4/13/05 Liverpool FC fuckin amazin movie wankers 5 stars
11/17/04 tomy johnson fucking amzing i luv the script 5 stars
11/16/04 bristols finest csf take a look at whats happening in middle england every saturday 4 stars
11/15/04 pissface super duper film 4 stars
10/28/04 Sam Jacks fucking quality 5 stars
10/24/04 josh wat a fuckin film quality 5 stars
10/23/04 Rik Quality film. Absolutly brilliant. 5 stars
10/23/04 andy may what a quality film 5 stars
10/19/04 dale fucking quality 5 stars
10/10/04 - mint 5 stars
9/28/04 LIAM JACKSON ste creelman your a wanker for saying football thugs make you patriotic.film's good though 4 stars
9/11/04 Reece it maybe dosent appeal to everyone but i say its fantastic,nearly as good as I.D 5 stars
7/02/04 california kid total crass crud 1 stars
6/28/04 ste creelman ur a wanka kevin u dont no out this is a class film it makes me proud to be british 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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Australia
  14-Oct-2004


Directed by
  Nick Love

Written by
  Nick Love

Cast
  Danny Dyer
  Frank Harper
  Neil Maskell
  Roland Manookian
  Jamie Foreman
  Tamer Hassan



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