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Screen Two: The Firm (1989)
Best hooligan film around
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