Following the deadly climax of "Green Street Hooligans," several members of the West Ham firm and numerous members of Millwall end up in jail. The GSE quickly discover the brutality of life... See full summary »
Jesse V. Johnson
When Newcastle United soccer star Santiago Munez is offered a spot with Real Madrid, he accepts, but the move - accompanied by big money and fame - tests his ties and loyalties to family, friends and business acquaintances.
Unjustly expelled from Harvard when a stash of cocaine is found in his possession, Matt moves to London to live with his sister and her husband Steve. He is quickly introduced to Steve's chirpy, cock-sure younger brother Pete. Initially, Pete is reluctant to get acquainted with Matt and allow him to tread around the capital city with him because he may be seen by others as an 'outsider', but after a heavy drinking session with him and his mates he quickly changes his opinion of him. On the way back from a football match, Matt is viciously accosted by a gang of Birmingham City thugs, until Pete and his friends step in and save him. It is from here that Matt learns the truth about Pete and his friends- they are football hooligans, operating the GSE (Green Street Elite) 'firm.' Initially afraid of the violence, Matt soon ends up becoming as desensitized to it as his new found friends - but as events roll on, suspicion, shocking revelations and unsettled scores combine to a devastating ... Written by
Inaccurate, clichéd, bathetic, 'Green Street' is one of the most royally diabolical films I have ever seen. This dreadful exposition of poor writing, acting and direction pins ragged colours to a splintered mast within minutes, when wide-eyed Boston ex-college boy Matt (Elijah Wood) visits London and his sister Shannon (Claire Forlani) after being fitted-up by a coke-snorting rich-kid fellow student with influential relatives to embarrass. As Matt arrives, we learn that Shannon's wide-boy-made-good husband Steve (a cast-to-type Marc Warren) has quietly planned a romantic evening with the missus, evidenced by a pair of hard-to-come-by show tickets. Hubby grabs the opportunity to palm off his unexpected guest on brother Pete (Charlie Hunnam), a cocky jack-the-lad who, as we've already discovered from the opening sequence, is also an extremely mouthy football yob.
Although Steve's discomfort over Pete's potty-mouthed demeanour in front of both wife and house-guest is evident, such is the attraction of 'Chicago' (a gangland tale, chosen for reasons which soon become gratingly obvious) that he's quite happy to entrust the naive Matt to the care of his errant bro': an even rougher diamond than he whom he knows is certain to lead the young American astray.
Matt, despite his preppy disposition and the small voice of calm that would surely be bidding him "run" from a situation that looks iffy from the start, is strangely happy to spend quality time with this boorish and potentially dangerous character, his jetlag apparently having rendered him a sponge for every splenetic old anti-American cliché in the book (yes, even the ones about "friendly fire" and "being late for both wars"). Soon the pair is all but arm-in-arm and joshing happily together in the pub, the initially suspicious crew of local hardboys (for Pete is the Main Man) quickly coming around to the thought that the Yank's a good'un after all, understands the concept of loyalty and will support his new mates no matter what sort of how's-yer-father's going down.
Apart from generally getting things very wrong about London, the film's foundation conceit, the premise upon which Matt becomes involved with West Ham's Green Street Elite in the first place, is fatally flawed from the beginning and heads rapidly south from there. We are drawn towards the GSE's loathsome characters only because the real 'bad guys' of the piece - wouldn't you know it, it's the MILLWALL firm - are so operatically unhinged that anyone else can only look like a choirboy, no matter how handy he might be with the coarser rhythms of East End slang, a taunting terrace chant and a set of brass knuckles. Ultimately the film overcooks to evaporation every hoary notion of the noble savage and his Cosa Nostra-style commitment to tribal loyalty and the closure of ranks. The allegiances are unlikely from the word go, the narrative has been seen before in any number of dramatic contexts (but done better and with greater complexity; for a football-specific example see 'ID') and the gang violence is graphically, gleefully choreographed to the point of voyeuristic pornography.
Every possible riff on London life is plundered short of shipping in a couple of pearly kings to do the Lambeth Walk with yer old mum outside the rub-a-dub. As might have been mentioned elsewhere, Hunnam delivers his lines in the most woeful cockernee accent this side of - yes, him again - Dick Van Dyke, and it came as a considerable surprise to learn that the actor is a Geordie and not an Irish-American ex-cop from Queens. Marc Warren goes through his barrow-boy chops and does what we've come to expect of him, whilst Wood is tolerable in a wretched role; the single observation that enthusiasts for this film have made with which I agree - that Matt needed from the start to have an air of the innocent abroad about him, only latterly discovering a steelier determination when forced to face life full-on - is fair enough, and few ought to be able to do this better than good old Frodo Baggins himself.
But this isn't nearly enough on which to hang the story. Steve, a hooligan reformed, would never have exposed Matt to what he knows the GSE is capable of in the first place; neither would a character like Matt have allowed himself to take up with such dubious companions out of choice. From the beginning, the incomer's not exactly falling on anybody's mercy for survival in cold London town. Matt's not short of cash; at the start of the film he takes a bullet for his feckless college room-mate and receives a handsome sweetener for his trouble. And his father's Fleet Street connections could easily land him a plum job in journalism; Matt's major at Harvard and the calling whose discovery by the respective Upton Park and Coldharbour Lane crews eventually leads to the film's ultimate big set-piece: a ludicrous final gang skirmish on a bleak post-industrial lot, complete with the inevitable slo'mo evocation of our virtuous warrior-princes doing honourable battle for a higher calling, like something out of 'Excalibur' with pylons.
Shannon pitches up to spoil the fun and Matt returns to Boston, an older, wiser man. Cut to a posh downtown restaurant, and here's our hero's Harvard nemesis enjoying a quiet toot in the mens' room (having left the cubicle door helpfully unlocked, as you do). And just as Matt prepares to punch the hapless cokehead's lights out, wouldn't you know? His hand is stayed. For all the murderous mayhem of his experiences over the sea and far away with the proud footballing Knights of Saint George, he's learned something precious and invaluable. Yes, like any Plaistow lad blooded in the school of hard knocks that is Upton Park, he's emerged a better person. Which is not a feeling I can share having seen this grubby film.
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