Nick Love’s trademark brand of lad-mag cinema is destined to get up people’s noses – and you sense he wouldn’t have it any other way.
But behind the swagger lies a gifted filmmaker whose only crimes are the occasional lapse of judgement (Outlaw, anyone?) and a somewhat limited vocabulary.
You might well have assumed Love’s cocksure reimagining of Alan Clarke’s seminal 1988 TV movie would be another testosterone-soaked mishap. But it’s a minor triumph, the writer/director putting the excesses of The Football Factory behind him to produce a far more mature look at the ‘English disease’ of football hooliganism.
OK, The Firm 2.0 does dispense with the political subtext of the original, which saw Gary Oldman’s Bex – sharp-suited estate agent by day, snarling mob leader by night – as a distorted mirror image of Thatcherite self-interest. But it’s only so Love can move 17-year-old Dom (Calum McNab) centre stage and turn Clarke’s social document into a rites-of-passage fable in the vein of his first and best feature, Goodbye Charlie Bright.
To young Dom, Bex (Paul Anderson) is a fatally alluring combo of big brother, fashion icon and no-nonsense alpha male – a twisted role model, perhaps, but a role model all the same. No wonder, then, that he eagerly signs up to be a member of his crew, a motley group of dapper casuals who spend their lives dreaming of putting one over on a rival outfit run by Yeti (Daniel Mays), Bex’s sneering south London nemesis.
This is hardly new territory for Love, or indeed recent British movies (think Cass, Green Street and Awaydays, not to mention Shane Meadows’ This Is England). Yet it’s ground he makes perversely his own by lifting the best scenes from Clarke’s film and infusing them with his own glossy aesthetic, one that revels in the most eye-watering examples of ’80s clobber and a throbbing vintage soundtrack that’s a Now That’s What I Call Music compilation all in itself.
Anderson is no Oldman, but then he doesn’t try to be. You could argue his Bex – a deadeyed thug with a streak of psychosis running the length of his polyester tracksuit – is an even nastier piece of work, particularly when he senses his young protégé might be losing his bottle.
There’s no such problems for Anderson in the commentary booth, the actor at one point noisily relieving himself in one to the amusement of Love and “technical consultant” Lee Jackson.
Uttering the first of many “cunts” inside the first two minutes, this merry trio go on to apply the noun to “tight” producer Allan Niblo, Daily Mail critic Chris Tookey (“He’s a nonce!”) and countless others. See what we mean about a somewhat limited vocabulary?
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