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On the Wirral in the grim early years of Margaret Thatcher's premiership, the opportunities for thrill seeking young men looking to escape 9 to 5 drudgery are what they've always been: sex, drugs, rock n' roll, fashion, football and fighting. Written by
STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning ** Sunday Night * Monday Morning
After the death of his mother, Paul (Nicky Bell) is looking for some direction in his life and thinks he's found it with 'the pack', a gang of football hooligans in late '70s Merseyside with a distinctive dress sense and tribal mentality. However, an encounter with former top boy Elvis (Liam Boyle) gives him an alternate view of them and the possibility of moving his life in a more positive direction. Elvis's dream is to escape to Berlin and lead a more fulfilling life and this is a direction Paul sees...but circumstances beyond his control drag him down with those around him and see his life thrown into chaos.
As morally dubious as they are, 'hooligan' films certainly have their own cult following in the UK, although this dramatization of a late 70s Merseyside gang has received limited exposure. It's an admirable piece, without any funding from any of the big London studios (ah), and it's not translated particularly badly into a film. But that doesn't mean it works.
The performances from the two lead actors are fine, as well as supporting actors such as man of the moment Stephen Graham in a smaller role, but who manages to have presence even with this. And it's an engaging piece of human drama, that manages to sweep you along with enough substance and depth to keep you hooked. But it's all lost on some weird art-house trip with itself, with slow, lingering close up shots of Boyle's bare chest and symbolism with red paint flowing between fingers representing blood, all done to a haunting Joy Division soundtrack. While it's stuck in this rut, the story becomes less engaging, the characters lose their depth and the film generally becomes a bit of a mess. Hardly a failure, but still a bit of a shame. **
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