Sunday, June 3, 2012

English Football Films

Green Street Visited and Revisited      

By Ed Garea

GREEN STREET HOOLIGANS (Odd Lot Entertainment, 2005): A quirky, compelling movie starring Elijah Wood, of all people. Wood plays a Harvard student unjustly expelled when a stash of cocaine is found in his dorm room. The coke, of course, belongs to his roommate, who is politically connected and can’t afford to take the hit, so Wood takes it for him in return for $10,000. Not much of a start, but once Wood goes to England to see his sister, the film begins to pick up steam. As she and her English husband both work, Wood is palmed off on the hubby’s younger brother to show him a good time.

Charlie Hunnam, in a really good turn, is the football-addicted brother. He takes Wood to a West Ham United match where Wood meets Charlie’s friends, all football hooligans. The movie really takes off as Wood and the hooligans, initially mistrustful of each other, begin to bond with Wood becoming one of them. Turns out that Charlie’s gang is the GSE – Green Street Elite, so named because West Ham’s stadium is on Green Street. The movie is an interesting study of the psychology and motivation of the football hooligans and also provides a nice turn with the maturation of Wood, who, we learn, was never exposed to this sort of society before meeting the GSE.

The GSE itself lives for two reasons: to root on West Ham, and to fight with supporters of the opposition club, Millwall, which is just across the Thames. The big plot surprise the film builds toward is not really a surprise if you’ve been paying attention, but the little things and actions in the movie are enough to make one forget all that. Also in the film as one of the GSE, Dave Miller, is Ross McCall, “Leibgott” from Band of Brothers. I’ve often wondered what happened to him because his performance in the miniseries reminded me strongly of John Garfield. The film, however, is a winner no matter how one looks at it.  A-

GREEN STREET HOOLIGANS 2 (Odd Lot Entertainment, 2009): This one, I think, went straight to video. That would not surprise me, as this was a real stinker. It picks up where the original left off after the violent showdown between GSE and the Millwall fans.

Dave Miller (Ross McCall) and two of his buddies are sent off to jail where they meet other jailed members of rival football firms who want to do them bloody harm. The damn thing looks like it was originally intended to be an American prison film, but was bought and adapted by a British firm. So what we end up with a sort of a bizarre cross between the soap Eastenders and HBO’s prison drama Oz.

Holes in the plot are quickly filled by unrelenting violence as Dave and the boys meet one disgruntled hooligan after another. Added to this mix are the tried and true roles of the Uncomprehending-but-Human Warden, the Honest Guard, and the Corrupt Guard. The Corrupt Guard develops a hatred for Dave and the boys, being as they have struck up a friendship with the Honest Guard, so she conspires with the Millwall thugs to stage a football match with the prize being release from jail. Of course she rigs it so Dave and the gang have almost no chance of winning, but the Honest Guard comes to the rescue and gets the match back on a level playing field so Dave and his boys win fair and square, and in the inevitable retribution of justice at the end, Corrupt Guard gets hers. Oh yeah, she’s a woman in a men’s prison. Oh, and in the role as the Corrupt Guard is none other than Marina Sirtis, late of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Now here is a warning to those of you that loved the show and correctly believed that Sirtis, as Counselor Troi, was Drop Dead Gorgeous: Do not watch this film. She has hit the wall and hit it hard. I could hardly believe at first that it was she. A friend of mine who works in Hollywood told me that Sirtis is a heavy smoker, so that accounts for a lot of the disparity. She also can’t utter a sentence in the movie without using the F--- or C--- word. Usually in films such as these, the woman has a sex scene with one of the men. THANK GOD that didn’t happen! I’d have tossed my cookies.  F

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