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Green Street Hooligans

tn_greenstreetGREEN 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.

mp_greenstreetOver 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.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013 at 3:03 am and is filed under Crime, Drama, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

26 Responses to “Green Street Hooligans”

  1. Pretty sure it’s “football” in the UK, the thing you guys in the US call soccer, because there’s already that game you call football, where the egg-shaped thing is, um, carried around. Why is that game called FOOTball, by the way?

  2. This movie is very popular here in Germany (might be because we are a football nation. I mean REAL football. The one you play with your feet.) although it went straight to video here. But one day it premiered on TV right after a big event (can’t remember which one. Might have been a game show or something.) and apparently most viewers decided to not change the channel. Long story short, the DVDs suddenly sold out very fast and the distributor even produced a 2 disc special edition a few months later.

    I only saw it once, though. I thought it was okay. Nothing too special, but watchable.

  3. Here in Holland, back in 1997, there was a big confrontation near where I lived between hooligans of the two major dutch soccer teams. Both groups of hooligans, a couple hundred people each (!), armed with baseballbats, iron bars, hammers and whatnot, met in an empty farmfield next to a highway and proceeded to charge each other. Some of this massive fight got caught on newstape and I remember seeing it on TV and thinking it looked just like something out of Braveheart. One guy actually got killed by getting his head bashed in with a hammer. This fight became known as the Battle of Beverwijk.

    Hooligans are fucking nuts and what they do has nothing whatsoever to do with the sport they assosiate themselves with.

  4. This movie just kind of pissed me off. There’s nothing in my soul that will ever let me think that any of these people are anything but total wastes of DNA, but the movie expects me to believe that they’re the last great rebels of the Western world. Fuck you, you’re a bunch of drunks who watch other people perform a physical activity. Get over yourselves.

    On the other hand, I may not totally understand (translation: I totally fucking hate) sports.

    I also forgot Charlie Hunnam was in this. I think I kinda can’t stand that guy.

  5. The Undefeated Gaul

    December 3rd, 2013 at 4:14 am

    This movie would’ve been better if all the hooligans knew MMA and fought each other in underground tournaments and starred Scott Adkins instead of Elijah Wood, I think.

  6. The Undefeated Gaul

    December 3rd, 2013 at 4:15 am

    PoweredUpPacman – as a fellow Dutchie you should give Green Street 3 a try as well – if only because the villain is played by Theo Maassen. Or maybe not, but then at least a clone of him.

  7. Hunnam’s cockney accent is so bad it goes beyond laughable, and I really don’t rate him as an actor at all.

    The 2nd movie is kind of hilarious in that it’s supposed to be set in a British prison, but it’s always gloriously sunny (it was filmed in South Africa I believe). At least the 2nd movie has Graham McTavish, who is genuinely good at playing a badass, as he demonstrated in Rambo 4: The Ramboing.

    3 is certainly the best, basically because it has Scott Adkins in it and follows the traditional underground fight tournament plot.

  8. Football hooligans are the worst and yes, it’s also been my longstanding belief that the biggest reason for all the violence is that the actual games tend to be boring as shit.

  9. @ Mr. M –

    I agree with you on the Hooligan thing, and honestly SUPER HARDCORE fans of most things. Don’t create your identity about you REALLY liking some random sport/team/band/genre/etc. Be a fucking individual, and make yourself know for the things you’ve accomplished, the way you conduct yourself and how you treat others. But whatever.

    As far as sports go, what do you hate about it? As a sports fan, I just see it as a fun diversion; spending a couple hours watching some freaks of nature go out and do some absolutely unfathomable physical acts is entertaining, to me at least. But to each their own.

  10. It’s not so much sports themselves. I find them pretty boring and monotonous myself, but I can see the enjoyment in watching people perform feats of physical skill. After all, I watch a lot of kung fu movies. It’s the culture surrounding sports that I can’t stand. That thing you mentioned about people deriving their entire identity from a team/sport/whatever is maddening to me. Luckily, I live in New York City, which certainly has its fair share of sports fans, but also tends to attract people of a more iconoclastic bent who have more going on in their lives besides which group of colorfully uniformed strangers moved a leather oblong farther in one direction than the other group did last weekend. But my family still lives in the suburbs, and every time I come home, I’ve got sports all up in my grill from the second I step off the train until the second I leave. It’s all anyone wants to talk about, and they act like I’m a heretic because I don’t worship at the same altar. I can’t even enjoy Thanksgiving dinner without the TV blasting the sound of some meathead bloviating about what Pittsburgh needs to do if it wants to win this ballgame. (Which it turns out is score more points. The answer is always score more points.) It’s like last week when the internet went on and on about DOCTOR WHO, a show I have no interest in or knowledge of, except it continues all year round. That’s all sports are to me: another TV show I don’t watch that people won’t shut up about.

  11. Check out 1988’s The Firm by Alan Clarke. It’s a really intelligent treatment of this topic, with great filmmaking and a bunch of really authentic performances led by Gary Oldman in one of his best jobs. It’s also only a little over an hour long, as it was made for British television. It’s like Goodfellas in that it embraces the swagger and craic of being part of one of those gangs while never losing sight of the fact that these lads are awful people.

    Can’t recommend it highly enough.

  12. As you say, Op, THE FIRM is an intellligent treatment of the phenomena. And it explains very well how these guys look at what they’re doing and how it sort of sprung out of unemployment and poverty. Something we need to remember now that the media has stopped asking why people do things.

  13. Well I’m not only British, but it’s been far too long since I left the UK, and I STILL prefer basketball to what you guys call “soccer”. (I prefer MMA to both.) Make of that what you will.

    There’s a whole subgenre of British movies over here commonly referred to as “gangster porn”. Sort of the Guy Ritchie ripoffs to you guys’ Tarantino ripoffs. I’m afraid that Vern’s review makes me think that “Green Street” is one of those but with a football hooligan slant, which is not encouraging.

    Vern, is this review by any chance motivated by the fact that Scott Adkins is in “Green Street 3”, as brought up on the forums recently?

  14. Majestyk:

    “That thing you mentioned about people deriving their entire identity from a team/sport/whatever is maddening to me.”

    YES. Thank you. I know way way way too many people like this. The really annoying thing is the way that it permeates the media. There are a lot more arts conoisseurs than sports fans among the British public, but you wouldn’t know it from the media… much the same as how classical music is by far the most popular genre but 90% of musical TV shows talk exclusively about pop. We do have a few really good shows about film criticism over here (I can watch Mark Kermode in just about anything) but we haven’t had a Siskel and Ebert for a long, long time.

    Also, I feel really old after saying that sentence. (Which is probably doing a disservice to the elderly, given the wealth of older rap music fans, including Vern himself, who post on this site.)

  15. As a longtime wittertainee (wittertainer?), I must agree with Paul that Mark Kermode is a great, and entertaining, film critic who I can watch or listen to anytime.

    He actually did a blog post about great film criticism websites a while back and I, amongst several others, mentioned this very site.

  16. The Firm was bleak, uncompromising, and rang painfully true. Clarke was a Filmmaker of the highest Order.

  17. This shares a lot of similarities with the 1990 book Among The Thugs by then-Granta editor Bill Buford. I read it nearly 20 years ago, but every plot point mentioned in the review seems lifted from the book. The book was an excellent non-fiction exploration of the 1980s football culture. Recommended.


  18. Good review Vern – having had to deal with a lot of Bristol City’s idiots (the sort with the team’s crest tattooed onto the back of their skull) back when I worked in a pub, it would never have occurred to me to think of them as “football nerds”!
    As far as not seeing any normal bystanders during the fight scenes – that’s actually what it’s like. They are savvy enough to know that the police and the media would be tougher with them if innocent people got caught up in their violent shit so they actually arrange time and place with their rivals.

  19. I think soccer is fun to play for most Americans if you’re a kid, and it’s just running around and there’s less pressure to score all the time. When you get older though, it just seems to constantly losing and failing to make a goal and it’s tiring. With American football, even if you’re not scoring you’re still gaining yards, so there’s at least a sense of accomplishment for all that effort. Same with baseball and getting on base.

  20. This movie really aggravated me because it relied on boneheaded or schizophrenic behavior from the main characters to keep the plot moving. Charlie Hunnam’s character is introduced as a drunken, childish dick who hits his brother up for money after a night of hooligan antics, but the next day he’s a standup history teacher who coaches a children’s soccer team and talks like a completely different person. Claire Forlani’s character starts off making smart but difficult decisions to protect her child from her husband’s hooligan past, but then she drives down to an enormous brawl at a shipping yard with her baby in the vehicle and then steps out so someone can try to attack her. And [spoilerspoilerspoiler] Hunnam’s character just allows himself to be beaten to death so she can get away. One of the stupidest endings I’ve ever seen.

  21. Lexi Alexander made a good movie here, but unfortunately the movie refused to be any good.

    That is, this is an entertaining, engaging piece of filmatism but a stultifying, retrograde piece of film.

    Vern seems spot on as usual; though I didn’t think there was anything special that needed to be said about violent soccer nerds (Their idiocy seems self-explanatorily idiotic.), it’s nice to have those thoughts articulated here.

    If anyone cares, I’ve taken to Barclay’s Premier League coverage for my Saturday sport of choice (I can no longer enjoy American college football, due to head injury issues, amateur exploitation issues, and the fact that I’m older than all the players.). I love the announcers, the accents, the singing, the exultation of rising stars, the beratement of poor play & bad decisions, the drama of each whistle, the melodrama of each colored card, and the fact that EA Sports’s FIFA [#year] is consistently among the best video games ever (I’ve played FIFA on xBoxes or Playstations on 6 continents so far, and my record with Arsenal isn’t bad.).

    Anyway, hooligans are stupid and I am looking forward to GREEN STREET HOOLIGANS 3: GREENWICH DRIFT.

  22. I think you’re on to something with the soccer mimicry in Seattle. Japanese baseball games work the same way; cheering sections–complete with bands, banners, and whistle-blowing conductors–support the home team, and no one worries about the fact that this pass time didn’t evolve on Honshu. It may not have started at home, but by God they’re going to replicate it down to the DNA. How they got this way is one of life’s big questions, but maybe it’s because they had to adapt so quickly, to so many things, back when Admiral Perry’s 200 cannon salute opened up their harbors to the rest of the world. Back then they couldn’t take the time to wonder about the deeper meaning. They just decided “I like this, let’s crank it up to 11 and go from there.” And they’ve been going that way ever since.

    Thinking about Seattle and soccer; maybe we’re returning the favor after a century of having the world adopt our own, homegrown, organic bits of culture. Call it future shock or just plain exhaustion, but here in 2013 we’re all islands onto ourselves, forever dealing with the flotsam washing up on our shores. Like the Japanese we’ve found that the clock’s running out, and it’s better to embrace all and sort out what we don’t like later.

  23. Someone told me that with soccer it’s that they don’t make all that many goals.
    But when they do, they’re much more satisfying.

    I dont really care for soccer or football
    But I do like the bonds these kinds of sports can make.
    Not that idiotic hooligan shit.
    But more like that drinking a beer on the couch with friends yelling at the tv sort of thing.

  24. Which is shaped more like a foot: the oblong American football or the spherical soccer ball?

    Checkmate, Europe.

  25. Lazycrocodile, I had the same issue with Forlani’s character. You took a baby to a soccer brawl???

    Vern, you nailed it. It’s obvious why Firms are bad but there’s nothing seductive about them. It’s all moralizing, no storytelling.

  26. Wait a minute, that wasn’t it. They did capture how if you’re a loser with nothing going for you, being physically strong enough to best the shit out of guys would be all you had. I guess it just pissed me off no one ever confronted that. And Forlani bringing the baby to the brawl, fuck you.

    Love me some PUNISHER WAR ZONE though.

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