Screen Two: Season 5, Episode 8

The Firm (26 Feb. 1989)

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This is the story of rival "Firms" of football supporters, and how one man has a wish to team them up for the European Championships of 1988. However, when this is discussed, the opposing ... See full summary »



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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Andrew Wilde ...
Charles Lawson ...
William Vanderpuye ...
Jay Simpson ...
Terry Sue Patt ...
Nicholas Hewetson ...
Steve McFadden ...
Steve Sweeney ...
Hepburn Graham ...


This is the story of rival "Firms" of football supporters, and how one man has a wish to team them up for the European Championships of 1988. However, when this is discussed, the opposing leaders are not happy, as they believe this is a challenge to their authority. This Film shows how football violence has progressed from pure violence to a form of organized crime, to the extent that all the leaders know each others home phone / mobile phone numbers. Written by Darren Alexander <>

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Release Date:

26 February 1989 (UK)  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The BMW 3 Series vandalized at the service station changes from a 1982 E30 model to an older 1975 E21 model when attacked. See more »


Bex Bissell: How can I put this?
Bex Bissell: I can't
[Head butts Yousef's brother, Wes]
See more »


Remade as The Firm (2009) See more »


That's Amore
Music by Harry Warren
Lyrics by Jack Brooks
See more »

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User Reviews

Interesting insight for the time into how hooliganism had modernised in England.
9 March 2008 | by (Hampshire, England) – See all my reviews

It's such a buzz to discover a British film made two decades ago and such a buzz to enjoy it to the degree that I did. It can be said that 1988's The Firm works more than a piece of nostalgia and a gritty look at the mentality of a football hooligan who seems to have it all but risks loosing it anyway rather than a piece of inspired and original film-making but then again, you cannot hold that against it. The reason for this is because The Firm is a 70 minute long, BBC produced, made for television feature rather than your typical production.

At a time when British film was getting by in the latter years of Thatcher's reign and in a decade when two British films won best picture back to back (Chariots of Fire and Ghandi, respectively), The Firm works as a hark back to a time when football violence was still a predominant problem in England and abroad because of English fans. There is a scene in which someone on television talks about hooligans being smarter and more organised in their violence; something the lads in the firm dismiss but of course they go on to comply with later on when they meet up with rival firms during a proposal. The fact of the matter is; when you watch modern efforts like The Football Factory, the mere opening scene in that is an organised series of meetings of Chelsea fans as they aim to assault a pub entertaining rival fans. Likewise; to give you an idea of how bad the hooliganism was at the time of The Firm, it was so bad that during the 1990 World Cup in Italy, authorities and organisers had to make sure all of England's group games took place in Cagliari, on the island of Sardinia so that if there was any trouble, the airports and docks would be shut off and the hunt would contain the hooligans to the island's limits.

But whilst The Firm is an entertaining and gripping film, it suffers from its constraints and budget, as well as its run time. Gary Oldman is on absolutely commanding form as Bex Bissell, a man to rival that of Billy Bright from The Football Factory in terms of aggression if not physique but Oldman does not need physique as his acting and ability to get across a psycho persona is there already; there are shades of Agent Stansfield, a character he would play in Léon, six years later. The Firm is a great idea and one that is itching to perhaps be re-done; the idea that the 'job' that is being a hooligan is going through its own patch of modernity; the idea that no matter what, you honour those who have fallen and those who you at least respect on the battlefield – something that's echoed in the closing speech by England fans; it's all very tribal and ritual as we remember and fight for those lost on the battle field. "The hooligans have jobs" says the television; "They have wives, children and lives" it also says – the hooligans even have suits and nice cars, something that is confirmed when they all meet up initially; they resemble gangsters organising crime, not brainless fans up for a fight when/if a match seems to be dying out.

The Firm is a film that has 'That's Amoré' playing over its opening, a song we perhaps associate with gangster films, the Italian mafia for instance. The film isn't plotted but that isn't a bad thing by any means; we are treated to dialogue to set the scene of who these people are, something which sparkles when Bex and rival firm members exchange insults upon meeting and we get an emphasis on Bex's home life and home life in general – a lot of this film takes place in Bex's house where he struggles to clarify why he is what he is. His wife, Sue (Manville), constantly asks the question to the point that you think Bex will lash out. Sue is a woman and a strong character to have in such a film which is set in such a male dominated world. I say the film is not plotted but in a way it is, albeit in a loose and reliant fashion. Epic and gritty realism is the basis for the opening but whilst that is retained until the end, the film is a series of scenes revolving around why one, then two, then three people have to drop out of the firm that will take on a rival firm for the right for something else. That something else is the right to lead the joined England firm at the European Championships in West Germany, 1988.

So with this in mind, Bex and his crew, who are made up of people like Mickey from Only Fools and Horses and Sol from Snatch, come up with a series of reasons that they cannot fight for the right to have Bex as the England firm leader. The idea for the narrative is a little silly; let three firms bash the hell out of each other for the right to see who can orchestrate the right to bash the hell out of continental Europeans, but the scenes work; Bex's loose mentality works as a constant threat; the cause and effect holds up to the end and we get to see lots of exterior shots of London, 1988. If by the closing hurrah it feels like it has outstayed its welcome, its because due to the shocking twist that happens, the West Ham firm members will probably be spitting blood in an itching orgy of lust for revenge but you don't get that feeling – instead, everyone comes together; the West Ham firm with a bad case of amnesia. Too bad it was all for not much as England faded away out of Euro '88 without so much as a win.

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