Bins, bollards and phone boxes. All used to bone-crunching effect in Green Street's brutal kick-off. Writer/director Lexi Alexander makes no excuses for her characters and doesn't bother to ease us in. We're not asked to like these tribal thugs and there's no opportunity to do so before we see them doing what they do best/worst, Charlie Hunnam's charismatic-but-thuggish Pete leading the Green Street Elite (GSE) - - West Ham's hardcore supporters - - into battle.
Elijah Wood's wide-eyed tourist is our guide to this sickening subculture, at first standing on the edge of the scuffles and then transforming from tarnished all-American golden boy to haymaker-throwing nutter. Watching him dive headlong into the melee is like a drop kick to the cojones. Don't expect to sit there, placid. This is violence at its most vicious and vicarious, the viewer put behind every punch, every kick, every bottle.
The fact that it comes as a thrilling rush is to Alexander's credit: far from glamorising the brutality, as the Daily Mail will no doubt claim, she implicates us in it. And while Green Street ultimately refuses to spoon-feed a message, it sure as hell doesn't flinch from showing how thuggery leads inevitably to destruction - - not just for those living it but for their families, too.
Plot-wise, Green Street joins the clichés as it follows much the same route as last year's Football Factory. But while there's never a point when you don't know where the action's going - - or can't see the schematics that will get it to that very place - - Alexander's movie is leant huge credibility by way of being filmed in and around real football grounds (West Ham's Upton Park, Millwall's The Den) with real fans from real teams.
But this isn't a film about footie in the same way an office romance isn't about the office; it's about loyalty and friendship, albeit expressed in a twisted, polluted way. Football is attached to hooliganism because it's convenient. Green Street understands this and wants everyone else to, too.
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Elijah Wood struggles as a Jekyll and Hyde hooligan but this is a skull-cracking glimpse at a dangerous and addictive underworld.