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"Screen Two: The Firm (#5.8)"
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Reviews & Ratings for
"Screen Two" The Firm (1989)

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Shorter, sharper and just as shocking

9/10
Author: davideo-2 from United Kingdom
27 January 2006

STAR RATING: ***** The Works **** Just Misses the Mark *** That Little Bit In Between ** Lagging Behind * The Pits

Just last week, when I was reviewing Made in Britain, I commented that I'd like to get a chance to see The Firm, the last of Alan Clarke's really prominent works. I also noted that MIB was 'short, sharp and shocking' but that really ends up applying more to this film. Barely even feature length and not actually featuring that much footie violence (except for one or two, with one I recognized by my familiar Birmingham New Street) it's a film carried by Clarke's usual method of having no soundtrack and letting the film carry itself, as well as a startling lead performance from Gary Oldman as a man who can switch from a normal, calm assured guy one minute to a determined, angry psycho the next.

Bex (Oldman) cuts a nice living as an estate agent and on the surface appears to be a decent, respectable, ordinary everyday bloke. But every Saturday, it becomes a different matter. He heads the ICF Football 'Firm', responsible for organized soccer violence. The film charts his gradual deterioration, as he becomes more driven to mount the firm against impossible odds and come out as top dog.

Any fans of UK television should keep their eyes peeled throughout, as there's a whole host of familiar 'before-they-were-famous' faces on display, from Only Fools and Horses's Mickey Pearce, to Corrie's Jim McDonald (doing a reasonable cockney accent) and , least prominently, East Enders' Steve McFadden (aka Phil Mitchell) as one of the rival firm's thugs.

It's not on quite as grand a scope as later films with similar themes would be (I.D., The Football Factory) but kudos to the TV film that got the concept of soccer violence rolling. ****

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4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

A frightening movie and one of Gary Oldman's best performances

8/10
Author: sc8031 from United States
27 June 2008

This is scary stuff right here. Gary Oldman's performance as Bixie is chilling. As I'm always saying... Gary Oldman should play every role in every movie! Hahaha!

The film is a very potent portrayal of a few gangs of English hooligans in the early 1980s. The majority of the film follows a three-gang dispute over which gang leader will become the "Best Boy" or Firm-leader. The Best Boy gets to lead a consolidated version of the three groups to Germany as the official English hooligan death squad or what-have-you.

There are many scary sequences, with realistic evocations of hideous emotions, and the violent moments are sometimes difficult to watch. I've seen more violent stuff on similar subject matter, but this one resonates very deeply due to such sincere direction and acting. I don't enjoy violence in my film experiences, but here it is concise and frightening, so I think it is worth contemplating if one is rarely exposed to violence.

The dialog here is thick East London borough English. There are optional subtitles for English, and I actually needed them to understand the dialog. The amount of rough slang thrown around here was way over my head. It was pretty awesome.

I know a lot of people will be turned off by the subject matter. I'm not particularly enthralled by it myself, but this is a real peek into the dangerous hooligan scene of the 1980s. It features one of Oldman's best performances and his role causes the movie to be completely haunting even months later.

A ridiculously well-made, scary movie.

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10 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Gary Oldman, you've done it again!

8/10
Author: Bon_Jovi_chick from Manchester England
14 January 2004

I only watched this film last night and despite its short length, its really good. One of the very few films that Gary shows off a lovely British accent. You see Gary as a proud guy who is violent but also has a heart and cares for his wife and child.

I recommend this film to hard core Gary Oldman fans only though. Others may not like its content.

Is there no film that Gary cant do!!!!

10/10

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Brutal and brilliant

9/10
Author: glenn-aylett from Whitehaven Cumbria
11 June 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Eighties football in England was blighted by hooliganism and organised firms of violent hooligans. This is the story of Bex Bissell, leader of a football firm based loosely on West Ham's Inter City Firm, and how he tries to organise a firm to cause trouble at the 1988 European Championship.

Although it is a little dated, the film was made at the height of the yuppie era and brick like mobile phones and sharp suits predominate, The Firm's portrayal of groups of men who love violence, but in the case of Bex Bissell have respectable careers and mortgages, is accurate for the time as hooliganism had moved on from the unemployed skinhead image it had in the late seventies. Also Bissell's main rival, Birmingham hooligan Yeti, played excellently by Phil Daniels, drives around in a Volkswagen Golf GTI and wears designer clothes.

As for the violence, even now it is quite shocking, but true of the era it was made in. In one scene a young hooligan has his face slashed, in retaliation Bissell tortures the man who carried out the attack, and in the final scene, a vicious fight between Bissell and Yeti sees Bissell gunned down and killed. Also it's debatable whether some of the men have any interest in football, Yeti is seen at a match discussing violence and for all Bissell is seen playing in the opening credits, he seems more interested in his firm and the next fight than match results.

All in all The Firm is an excellent film made in the era just before football became the new rock and roll and became respectable. Look out for Steve Mc Fadden( Phil Mitchell) in a cameo and the late Terry Su Patt is excellent as Yusef, a new hooligan who gets his face slashed on his first outing with Bisell's firm.

Ironically after I posted this review, there has been hours of rioting by England fans in Marseille, which proves the problem isn't totally dead.

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Oldman's finest performance to date

8/10
Author: tomgillespie2002 from United Kingdom
3 March 2016

Long before Nick Love was helping stockpile DVD bargain bins with those terrible football hooligan movies (including a remake of this film), Alan Clarke - the highly underrated director responsible for such landmark British TV dramas Scum (1979) and Made in Britain (1982) - released The Firm, causing a moral public outcry that was the fashion of Thatcher-era Britain in the process. On the surface, it seems to glamorise these yobs and their violent tendencies, but viewing it in hindsight, it's actually about a Britain suddenly awash with money during the 'Lawson Boom', with the thugs caught up in it having grown bored and seeking out that extra buzz they receive from brutality.

Although they are essentially 'football' hooligans, Clarke makes a point of showing little of the game itself. Apart from the glimpse of Arsenal's old Highbury stadium and a Sunday-league kick-about at the start, the beautiful game is little more than an excuse for these idiots to go to town on each other. ICC ringleader Bex (Gary Oldman) hopes to unite rival firms in order to take on the Europeans in the upcoming Europeans Championships, but his opposite numbers, including the particularly loathsome Yeti (Philip Davis) of the Buccaneers, inform him that his firm must rumble with theirs first if he wants to be top dog. This however is only a loose plot that binds together what is ultimately a slice-of-life approach.

While the media portrayed these men as disaffected youth, a lot of them were in fact middle-class, able to afford fancy cars and suburban housing. Bex is happily married with a young son, making a comfortable living as an estate agent. When his son picks up his father's Stanley knife and starts to chew it, Bex's domestic life is thrown into disarray. It's in these quieter moments that the film is at its most disturbing, and in truth, there is less violence on show than the controversy drummed up on its release would have you believe. And when it does come - a young ICC member gets a particularly nasty face slashing - its all the more powerful. The open-ended final scene holds back from making any overt social or political statements but instead lingers with an observant fascination at these lager-swilling arseholes. Like with Scum and Made in Britain, The Firm defines the mentality of Britain at the time, and features what is undoubtedly Oldman's finest performance.

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Kick it out

7/10
Author: Prismark10 from United Kingdom
7 November 2013

One of director Alan Clarke's last film, The Firm was a controversial film for the BBC Screen Two strand dealing with the issue of football hooliganism a topical subject in 1980s Britain.

This film mixed football gang violence with Thatcher's 80s Britain with the rise of the Yuppies. In fact in the late 80s there was some evidence that the new breed of football hooligans were not skinheads in denims but rather aspirational and smartly dressed.

The opening scene with the protagonists playing a football match features no actual football.

Gary Oldman is charismatic as Bexy a cocky estate agent by day with a wife and young child but also the leader of the Inter City firm who has vision of leading the English contingent of hooligans in the 1988 European football championship which was a damp squib for the actual English football team.

Bexy has run ins with rival gangs especially the one led by Phil Davis. This is a memorable Screen Two film not only because of its subject matter, but it also contained many rising stars such as Phil Davis, Nick Dunning as well as Oldman and rather a few people who became better known in soap operas.

The film was remade in 2009 for a cinema release but its this version which has stood the test of time with Oldman's performance at the centre, Al Hunter's writing and Alan Clarke's direction.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

I feel compelled

8/10
Author: kevster007us from Arizona
23 June 2009

With the greatest respect to the previous commentators...YE'R WELL OUT OF OWDAH (forgive the appalling grammar/vocab. etc) I ask this question. Why would anyone remake this movie? It's not a movie. It's a wickedly acted morality play. That's it. For Americans..period. Oldman gives a great performance (I suspect he always knew he'd get $10M if he lasted long enough (Dracula anyone?)) Enjoy it for what it is. Early Oldman (he is a great but an annoying actor isn't he?) It's violent, so don't hurt people.....(this is a show and I disagree with all of it) Last point We Live on Borrowed Time By Barry Manillow We Love him so Especially Pugs

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Best hooligan film around

8/10
Author: fivestardan from Birmingham, UK
6 August 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Firm is one of the most enjoyable films of the hooligan genre ever made. Although it was made for TV on what was obviously a very small budget, The Firm outshines its modern day, big screen counterparts such as Green Street and The Football Factory.

Gary Oldman is superb and utterly convincing as Bex, the cocky estate agent who leads a double life as a violent member of the ICC, the West Ham hooligan firm of which he is 'Top Boy'. As the film progresses, Bex becomes more and more unstable as a result of his almost pathological obsession with defeating the leader of a rival firm named 'Yeti'. This obsession impacts on his family life to a great extent and culminates with Bex's untimely demise at the hands of his bitter rival.

The cast is awash with recognisable (and typecast) British TV actors such as Steve McFadden from Eastenders. Oldman shines amongst them and he perfectly captures the violent mentality of Bex with his seething fits of pure rage. His performance shifts from arrogant comedian to brutal maniac throughout the movie.

Certain elements of the film are disappointing, not least the ending which is far fetched it has to be said. However, at just over an hour in length, the film needed a definite conclusion in a short space of time. Also, some of the casting choices are poor, especially the character of young Dominic who is a totally unconvincing hooligan, even as an "under 5", a young newcomer to the ICC.

People always complain that hooligan films are never realistic enough. My answer to that would be that there are plenty of documentaries out there on the subject. This is drama, and whereas The Firm does not offer complete realism, it is as close a dramatic depiction to real football violence as there is. Far more so than say, I.D, which was just plain ridiculous.

Overall, The Firm is a great piece of raw film and well worth watching for Oldman's performance alone. It perfectly encapsulates the era of hooliganism in the greedy, late 1980's.

Eight out of Ten

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Gary Oldman doing what he does best.

7/10
Author: John Taylor (jdtaylor@btinternet.com) from Bedfordshire, England
1 May 2002

The firm is a film about the antics of football hooligans who were in their prime in the eighties and Gary Oldman is brilliant at portraying how moronic these idiots were . We se how his "Firm" battle against other local firms and we see how they were not afraid to stab,beat or even shoot each other in the name of fun. I am not myself going to say these idiots did (or still do) in the name of football because this is nothing to do with football , the sport i watch and love , it is a social problem. The ironic thing about these scum is that after beating each other up they gang together and beat foreign football to a pulp. The film is an insight and it is great to see Oldman in a film where he does not have to put on an American accent but if you want to see a better film on football hooligans watch " I.D " . 7 out of 10.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

I watched this a number of times in 1989 or '90

Author: saigonpieman from Saigon, Vietnam
11 January 2002

I have tried without success to buy this film through friends who have visited England during the years that I have been away. Despite the fact I avoided football through the 'boy' years, I thought this film was fantastic, and Gary Oldman showed his talents in everything he made after it.

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