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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Green Street Hooligans Movie Review

Green Street Hooligans (formerly known as Hooligans)

starring: Elijah Wood, Charlie Hunnam Directed by: Lexie Alexander rated R for: brutal violence, pervasive language and some drug use. 109 minutes

In the beginning of originally titled Hooligans, now known as Green Street Hooligans, Matt (Wood), our presumable hero, is a wimpy, almost-graduating (2 months away) Harvard student. Why do I harshly call the boy “wimpy”? Welp, because when his upper-class roomie hides his upper-class stash of cocaine in Matt’s stuff and subsequently allows him to take the fall for it, Matt not only doesn’t fight, he doesn’t even argue with the roommate’s contention that he has a lot more to lose, because of his family and his father’s re-election. Matt gets his butt kicked out of school, and with ten thousand dollars of guilt money from Coke Boy, he just meekly packs up his shit and flies off to England, to visit his sister and her family.

There, he gets the education that Harvard couldn’t quite give. Shortly after his arrival, Matt falls in with an interesting sort of crowd. Football fans. And if when I say, “Fans”, you imagine rabid young men slavering to beat the crap out of the supporters of the enemy team, after drinking and smoking and singing it up in pubs on their way to the match that day, then you have the correct mental image! These guys are not fans in the quiet, “boy gazes longingly at the pitcher’s mound while caressing the mitt on his hand, whispering “Someday”, in the middle of an Iowa cornfield” way. These guys are a “Crew”, and since some of you might not be from the UK or have a working knowledge of crews as such, I’ll explain it as best as I can. And remember, I got my info from a movie that was hard for me to hear and even harder for me to understand because I was too lazy to turn on the subtitles and the dudes talked really fast and used slang.

Ok, Crews are gangs unofficially associated with various soccer (sorry FOOTBALL) teams. They drink a lot, as mentioned, and smoke and talk in undecipherable (to a silly lil’ American girl like me) slang, they sing rousing, comradely songs that we presume are also associated with their teams. (And, what’s more, even though they’re singing about bubbles, they don’t sound half gay at all. We’re talking serious testosterone here.) They go to matches and cheer on their team, and, in their spare time, shag a few chickies, and, this is the important part, peeps… they fight. They fight A LOT. Now, as mentioned by Pete (Hunnam), the tattooed, shave-headed obvious bad boy ruffian who takes Matt under his wing, these guys aren’t like gangstas in the good old US of A. Driving by in a car and shooting an eight year old is cowardly, he correctly points out. No guns for these gents. Not even many knives or other weapons. We’re talking good, old fashioned, fists and feet ass whoopin.

If you don’t like to watch violence, spare yourself a tummy ache and don’t watch this. If, on the other hand, during schoolyard fights, you did not huddle against the fence in disgust and revulsion with your eyes squeezed shut (yes, Jessica, I am making fun of you), but rather moved as closely to the action as you could get and shouted, “hit him harder!”… well, my friend, you just might be the exact target audience the filmmakers were aiming for with GSH. There’s plenty of action. Lots of crunching sounds and booted feet flying and blood spewing, slo-mo, from various punched mouths. And our little Matt, he of the early-in-movie wimpiness, soon finds himself embroiled in this lifestyle, kickin ass with the best of them, a full-fledged member of the Green Street Elite.

The message of all of this brawling and singing, is not, “violence is wrong”. The message of GSH is “violence can be wrong sometimes, but not when combined with loyalty, comradeship, and reputation.” The viewer finds themselves pulled into the modern-day mythos of these men, their codes of honor, their black and white views. Before you know it, you’l be longing to hop a lane to England and go to a game, not to necessarily watch the match, but to scan the crowds with a discerning eye and find a crew you can join.

Of course, things always go wrong in movies like this. Here come your spoilers now, so click the x if you like surprises.

Did I mention that Matt was a journalism student at Harvard and his distant father is a foreign correspondent? Did I mention that the crew members don’t merely dislike journalists (Journos as they call them) but mistrust, hate and absolutely revile them? Did I say that one of the crew spots Matt with his dad at the Times, and then his diary is found, which reads an awful lot like an undercover journalism piece? You can see where I’m going with this. A wee bit o’ information is misunderstood, hunches lead to assumptions that lead to actions that can’t be taken back. You are stuck watching the unfolding mess with a clenched gut and a wince, knowing that when the crash comes, it won’t be pretty.

And it’s not. But despite it all, the movie doesn’t end “badly”, as I’d dreaded. In fact, it’s almost embarrassing how the filmmakers feel they need to spell out the moral messages they’re serving. I expected Matt, on his way back to the states, to have Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler” playing in the background. “You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em, know when to walk away, know when to run….” Of course, with GSH, the running time part is never. Matt, by the time he heads home, has learned valuable lessons (we assume) about what it means to be a real man. Come to think of it, there’s probably another Rogers’ song with that message in it, too. And guess whose door he heads to when he gets home? Oh yeah…. the roommate’s. Rub your hands with anticipation.

I give it 3 &’s...

& there were lots of good fight scenes

& it tugged at the strings that control your “loyalty and true friends” feelings

& it was cool to see a slice of life than most of us would never even hear of otherwise


Blogger Orhan Kahn said...

I love you &'s system.

Another film I haven't heard about but will definetly see after reading this.

6:13 PM  
Blogger Jay said...

I didn't read through your spoilers because you sufficiently piqued my interest to want to rent it and see it myself.

1:24 AM  
Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

I skipped the spoilers too because I'm definitely interested in seeing this one, but wasn't sure if it was out on DVD yet .. thanks for the heads up! .. if you want a thoroughly terrifying glimpse into the world of English soccer hooligans, I highly recommend Bill Buford's book "Among the Thugs"

6:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this review. I saw this when it was actually in theaters, although it never made it into many, unfortunately. I agree with your review--except having interviewed the director, Lexi Alexander, I believe her intent was to show that the world of hooligans was indeed one to be avoided, and she hoped to get that message across. But it also showed how Matt could go from "wimp" to something else by the experience he got while part of the firm. You are correct in realizing that the reason the "blokes" get into these firms are because of the brotherhood they find there.

This was a terrific movie with a great cast and lots of action. Although I am not one to like violence, (and only grimmaced a few times), I thoroughly enjoyed Hooligans, erm, Green Street Hooligans.

1:11 PM  
Blogger Meowkaat said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:42 AM  
Blogger Meowkaat said...

Oh, you people and your "I wanna be SURPRISED..." whaa whaa.
I'm totally on the book, Keith.
Anyways, enjoy the sodding movie, it's a bloody good one, blokes.

Hey Anonymous, you really get around! I've seen you posting everywhere! Glad you came to visit my blog while you were out and about. Come back soon!

8:45 AM  
Anonymous Carlos UK said...

THIS WAS (and I don't say this casually) ONE OF THE MOST AWFUL FILMS I HAVE EVER SEEN.

In particular if you are British this will be one of the most cringe-making movies you ever suffer.

Elijah Wood was totally unbelievable as a football hooligan and all through the film looked ready to s**t himself (does he actually know how to do another face?)

The dialogue was extremely weak (and propped up by gratuitous swearing to make it sound more "authentic"). For all of you Americans -PLEASE- do not believe this is what we talk like all of the time. The dialogue reminded me of Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins -with more expletives-.

For a -slightly- more realistic take on football hooliganism see "The Football Factory" or if you're looking for some good old English thuggish-ness "Sexy Beast" (Ben Kingsley deserved his Oscar nomination for this film and is brilliant).

Avoid Green Street! It is embarrassing to watch and devoid of any redeeming factors.

As they would say in Green Street: "What a load of c*nts"

3:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For Fuck's sakes..I liked this movie a lot and I hated that Pete had to die he was the only sexy guy in the movie I must say :\

2:52 PM  

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