The Football Factory is more than just a study of the English obsession with football violence, its about men looking for armies to join, wars to fight and places to belong. A forgotten ... See full summary »
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Jesse V. Johnson
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The Football Factory is more than just a study of the English obsession with football violence, its about men looking for armies to join, wars to fight and places to belong. A forgotten culture of Anglo Saxon males fed up with being told they're not good enough and using thier fists as a drug they describe as being more potent than sex and drugs put together. Shot in documentery style with the energy and vibrancy of handheld, The Football Factory is frightingly real yet full of painful humour as the four characters extreme thoughts and actions unfold before us. Written by
When Tommy Johnson's grandfather has a heart attack on the bus, he stumbles off with jacket in hand. In the next shot, Zebedee throws the jacket at him from the back of the bus. See more »
[Rod meets his girlfriend's parents]
Tell me more about the air conditioning, Rodney. I'm fascinated.
You told me you run an air conditioning firm.
Oh, we have a few vans out on jobs most of the time. Yeah, sure it's always busier in the summer, of course. Nothing like a soaring temperature to help the work, you know what I mean? Anyway, most of the time I just sit around the office waiting for the weekend. Don't get me wrong, I love the money the job pays. But my real passion ...
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The logic resulting in the production of this film is not hard to follow. The scathing social satire and searingly counter-cultural Trainspotting was a brilliant British film. The flash-talking, fast-plotted, gun-wielding, hard-brawling Lock Stock was a good British film. So why not combine aspects of both? Predictably, the result is a mess, but flashes of good film-making keep the viewer interested for the 1 hour and 20 minutes or so of football 'n' fights.
The opening sequence closely follows the Trainspotting format. A narrator, later we discover called Tommy, delivers his criticism on how we live our lives and how he has found excitement and meaning by flying right off the rails. The soundtrack moves from one Brit hit to the next as we are introduced to his gang in some snappy montages. Again, the Trainspotting skool of film-making isn't so much an influence as a screenplay, storyboard and script.
Soon, we get to know the gang, and learn that the love of their lives is violence, especially (but not exclusively) surrounding their football team, Chelsea, and particularly focused against their arch-rivals Millwall. I was preparing myself for some gruesome violence as geezers started drinking pints and looking for a fight. And then, the film ... just ... chickens out. A film which is supposedly about football violence should, um, contain some football violence maybe, but Football Factory becomes a film version of one of its thugs - all bluster and intimidation, and no bite. Supposedly hard-hitting action sequences have soap opera-like qualities. Never do we seem to see a fist connect in anger, or teeth shatter, or bones crack. Just some bad pantomime blood and incompetent camera-work. This inadequacy seriously undermines the film's impact - it fails to pump up the audience to the next big fight, and thus has no discernible pace. Just scenes, shots and cuts.
Instead, the focus of the film falls (rather disastrously) on the uninteresting, homogenous characters. With a sigh, I realized this wasn't going to get any better, and began to take mental notes of names, story lines etc so I could at least follow the plot. Tommy and Rod are the central duo, the thugs with brains, imagination, and perhaps the insight that will lift them out of this life. Bill is meant to be the ultra-nasty psycho - Robert Carlyle in Trainspotting was clearly what they were trying to emulate - but some unconvincing acting gives him all the terror of a particularly in-your-face door to door salesman. Zebedee is there for exposition on the cocaine-fuelled lifestyle that all youths supposedly lead (is this true? I was a teenager for years, and I never remember being offered cocaine.) There's also an organised violence ringleader, although I don't have to worry about his name because he brings absolutely nothing to the plot at all.
In brief, the plot follows the gang on the buildup to a particularly bruising clash - Millwall versus Chelsea, and particularly how Tommy begins to get cold feet about his thuggery and starts considering his options. This isn't helped by some heavy-handedly (almost bludgeoningly) symbolic dream sequences. I quite liked the film-making device of giving no warning or visual clues to as what was a dream and what wasn't. It's not put to an ultimate good use though, much like the rest of the handful or so of original ideas in the film. I like the dope-smoking old men though.
So is this worth viewing or not? Certainly, it's got more to chew on than another awful CGI-overkill-marathon like Van Helsing or Catwoman. But don't expect it to truly open your eyes to another world, or indeed, still be with you a month later.
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