GREEN STREET HOOLIGANS (as we call GREEN STREET in America) is a very watchable but meat-headed movie about assholes (as we call cunts in America) obsessed with soccer (as we call soccer in America) and exploiting the American fascination with English exoticism. Elijah Wood (THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY Extended Edition Blu-Ray + Blu-Ray 3D + UltraViolet Digital Copy combo pack) plays Matt Buckner, a young writer who gets unfairly expelled from Harvard and decides to go visit his sister (Claire Forlani, POLICE ACADEMY: MISSION TO MOSCOW) and her family in London. His brother-in-law Steve (Marc Warren) wants to get rid of him so he sends him to a soccer game with his little brother Petey (Charlie Hunnam). So they go out to drink beer and sing songs with the fellas and then go to the game.
One problem with this: Petey is the leader of the Green Street Elite “firm,” or club of soccer geeks who are so obsessed with their team that they get in violent brawls with the nerds for the other team. In fact, Steve used to be the leader of the firm but it was so dangerous a child was killed and he had to leave it behind to start a family. So he probly should’ve known better than to send his innocent Ivy League brother-in-law to be babysat by those thugs. But in his defense he told them to “stay out of trouble,” so it’s not his fault Matt busts his street fight cherry, feels alive for the first time in his life or whatever and falls in love with the violent life of a soccer Trekkie.
Over the course of the movie obviously Matt becomes more immersed in the subculture, by which I mean there are like ten montages of him laughing and drinking beer with a bunch of dudes with shaved heads while rousing pop punk/blue-eyed ska anthems play. He earns the respect of most of the guys except this one jealous douche named Bovver (Leo Gregory, ONE IN THE CHAMBER) who’s one of those dicks who just hates your guts and there’s nothing you could ever do to change his mind, including killing Osama bin Laden and increasing access to affordable health care. This guy keeps whining about “we don’t like outsiders” and that Matt’s a “Yank” and all this. Just pouting and giving him dirty looks and stuff. Oh, Bovver.
There’s some drama about Mark’s sister wanting him to stay out of trouble, a rival firm with a good reason to hate them, and a big blowup when the boys find out he studied journalism and keeps a journal. It’s a big betrayal because they hate “journos” in the same way entitled celebrities hate paparazzi. They act like they are actual criminals and he’s an undercover cop, just because before he got kicked out of school he was studying the same profession as a guy who wrote an article in the newspaper one time that pointed out the indisputable fact that they were a bunch of knuckleheads.
Director and former Mortal Kombat Live Tour Kitana Lexi Alexander (PUNISHER WAR ZONE, which is easily one of my top three Punishers) gives the movie a quasi-realistic look and feel, but sometimes it turns into THE WARRIORS, because there seem to be almost no regular civilians in the city except his sister and brother-in-law and a couple that get chewed out at a rival firm’s hangout pub. Whenever they have brawls there’s no one else in sight, and the two sides run at each other like armies in BRAVEHEART or something. Not that it needs to be, but it’s not much of an action movie. The fights are purposely sloppy, the camera pretty shaky. The director was a martial arts champion, but this is not supposed to be about the beauty of fighting. It’s about the elation of having that release, and the pride of surviving a beating.
Without seeing the name I never would’ve recognized Hunnam as the guy from PACIFIC RIM. Not just ‘cuase he looks younger and slimmer, but also because he’s full of energy and magnetism. Not like he was dead weight in the giant monster movie, but he definitely didn’t have this kind of charisma. You can see why Matt would be drawn to hanging out with Petey, even though he’s an idiot.
But what the movie does not do very well is make a seductive argument for firms, the way a mafia or street gang movie would. You know, like you know it’s bad but you think it’s pretty cool to watch in a movie. In a gang movie you’d see how these guys grew up poor, maybe they were rejected from legitimate work, or they fell into it because of where they grew up and who with, then they went too far, got deep into it, maybe their friend goes nuts (JUICE, MENACE II SOCIETY) or gets killed (BOYZ N THE HOOD), they want out but they’re scared, all that. These type of soccer clubs are different. They’re not as bad as real gangs, because they’re just about beatings. Most of their killings are accidental. But they’re harder to figure out than real gangs because there’s no selling drugs or protection, no capitalistic motive. They just like soccer and beer alot so they’re willing to put their bodies on the line for it. It’s weird.
Can you imagine any other fan-based gang that would not be laughed out of existence? Browncoats, Klingons, Cosplayers – they would have trouble intimidating anybody. I guess it’s only hooligans and Juggalos that fit into this category, fanboys that clog up a sidewalk and people might cross to the other side of the street to avoid them. It would be interesting to see violence between Star Trek Trekkies and Star Wars Trekkies, but neither side is united enough to be that committed. They’d get dressed up in their capes and stuff and walk around in a mob, but some complaint about prequels or lens flares would put dissension in their ranks.
I guess that shows that hooligans are more pure in their fandom. They can recognize they have a “shit” or “mediocre” team and still be all patriotic about it. These sci-fi people base their identity on being fans but spend most of their energy being angry at their series for ruining everything. Hooligans aren’t as conflicted.
You remember when I reviewed the movie SERENITY I told you a horrifying tale about Firefly nerds doing a sing-along? These fucking guys do that too. They keep singing something about “tiny bubbles.” The most forced emotional moment in the movie has a character alone at night singing it to himself in tears. It almost seems like a parody scene. At the end, when Matt is back on American soil and away from soccer forever, he still sings the song publicly. It kinda makes him look like a doofus because he fucking knows nobody knows what that song is but he acts like they oughta know or something. Even though they’re not about to fucking watch soccer and learn what songs are associated with it in different neighborhoods overseas.
But I guess maybe they’ll catch on eventually. Not long ago Americans cynically joked about the supposed fact that soccer could never catch on in the U.S. But when Seattle got The Sounders in 2007 it didn’t take long for locals to go nuts for them. Sounders fandom seems to have eclipsed all the other Seattle teams except when the Seahawks are having a good season (like this year). On game days sidewalks and buses are clogged with green jerseys, Xbox logos and those Harry Potter scarves they wear even when seasonally inappropriate. I got friends that are obsessed with the shit, they get pretty hardcore.
I’ve gone to a couple games. I like how uninterrupted it is, none of that waiting around you get in football and baseball. There’s something kinda zen about watching the ball go back and forth and back and forth with the very real possibility that no goal will be scored or that it will end in a draw. But other than that I gotta admit I don’t really get it. I don’t have the appreciation for technique that’s needed to stay interested. When I saw a game where there were several goals scored and the opposing team accidentally scored on themselves I figured it was time to hang it up because it could be another season or three before I saw that much excitement in one game again. And even that wasn’t as good as your average close game of basketball.
Maybe that’s why the rituals and the feuds come about: they need something to do. The people that seem to be having the most fun at the Sounders games are the section of hardcores singing the songs and stuff. But that kinda rubs me the wrong way. I can’t stop thinking it’s cultural appropriation, not in an offensive way, but in a forced kinda way. There is no tradition of drinking songs in the U.S., or singing at sporting events (outside of the National Anthem and “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”) I know it’s silly but I can’t let go of the idea that it’s a bunch of people copying how they think it’s supposed to be done in another culture instead of just allowing their own traditions to develop naturally. And of course the announcers and commentators have English accents to maintain the illusion. It’s like a theme park for Americans who want to be European.
Nah, forget it. People should do what they want to have fun. I know I’m just being a sourpuss. In unrelated news, here is a websight I found about how to live a cowboy lifestyle in Japan. Also check out this cool video of Japanese rockabilly.
Anyway, it’s clear that this subculture does have an exotic appeal to many Americans, so it makes sense that Wood’s character would get so wrapped up in it. And we get wrapped up in it too, at least in the sense that it’s a pretty involving story. But in the end when he philosophizes about his experience and how it taught him to stand up to the roommate that screwed him over at Harvard, I gotta call bullshit on that. You don’t need to go through a whole journey to figure out “stand your ground and fight.” You coulda listened to Survivor and got the same shit.
Or listened to your sister and your dad earlier in the movie. Or you coulda read it on the poster. It’s really not that deep a message in my opinion.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.