For each football club in the U. K. there is a supporters’ club which follows each respective team in the league. These aren’t officially recognised associations but are rather classified as ‘underground’ organisations. These clubs are called firms and while their members support the game of football, they also enjoy other extra-curricular activities associated with the sport. These usually take place before and after games and consist mainly of inciting violence against members of other firms and building up their reputation, or ‘rep’, as a result. Most of us call supporters of this kind, “hooligans”.
When Matt Buckner (Elijah Wood) takes the fall for a crime committed by his obnoxious roommate, he is kicked out of Harvard two months before his graduation. Without so much as a word of protest it becomes clear early on that Matt isn’t much of a fighter. So, instead of sticking it out, he high-tails it to merry old England to visit his sister (Claire Forlani). Once there, however, he meets Pete Dunham (Charlie Hunnam), his British step-brother, and is soon drawn into the gritty world of football firm culture. A world where, like the tagline says, you have to stand your ground and fight.
Elijah Wood is a wuss. Sure he’s taken on the meanest of the mean (Lord Sauron in the Lord of the Rings trilogy) and battled Macaulay Culkin to the death (The Good Son) but his former screen battles are erased by the cowardice of his character in Green Street Hooligans. The weakness exhibited by Matt is infuriatingly annoying at the beginning of the film, especially when you see what his roommate looks like, but as a catalyst for the film’s main events, and the fighting that follows, it’s a great setup.
Green Street Hooligans walks a fine line between condemning and glorifying the football culture it has chosen to portray on screen. At times the dangers, as well as the idiocy, involved are clearly shown – usually with a torrent of deep red blood from some poor guy’s battered face – and at other times it will have you identifying with Elijah Woods’ character, wishing you were part of his firm.
The violence is graphic and extremely bloody at times and will do a fantastic job of grossing many people out. D. O. P. Alexander Buono does some nifty things with the camera that further accentuates the fighting. The standard of the choreography deteriorates heavily as the film progresses and the final fight sequence is tarnished with some laughable play-fighting moments: punches clearly missing faces … that sort of thing.
If director Lexi Alexander (a former World Karate and Kickboxing champion) wanted to make a strong moral tale condemning football hooliganism she has failed. Green Street Hooligans promotes the spirit of camaraderie amongst men and the thrill of the street brawl – much in the same way that Fight Club did – and, I guess for the purpose of trying to turn a profit at the box office, it maintains a happy Hollywood ending.
As a piece of entertainment though, it’s an exciting and at times brutal watch. It does drag slightly in places but when Lexi Alexander gets it right the film works as a testosterone fuelled film experience.