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Very good, but could have been even better., 25 September 2005

On the one hand this is a good movie with a lot of realism and largely good performances. On the other it stops short of being a great movie for two reasons. The first is the casting of Charlie Hunnam as 'Pete'. Not that he does a particularly bad job of the role, but there are enough young British actors who can actually carry off an East End accent that could have played a more believable character. So poor is his dialect at times it's almost as wince-inducing as the token English guy in the Ocean's Eleven remake, who makes Dick Van Dyke sound like Peter Ustinov. But this film is aimed at the American audience so the grubby antics of the cast still have a quaintness about them that you just wouldn't find in or around Green Lane. For instance, the first reference to rhyming slang is bizarre "you're having a bubble (and squeak)" translates as either "you're having an informant" or, in it's more traditional use, "you're having a Greek". Very few Americans, I imagine, would notice these nuances so as an export product it succeeds.

Elijah Woods is very good in this too. It was a brave move to not play another fantasy character or go for a rom-com and despite my reservations before seeing the film, he has done himself a world of good by showing that he is a versatile and memorable presence. Stalwart of the 'nasty piece of work' role, Marc Warren, is as good as always and could have played Pete with ease.

The other slight problem I have with the film is in it's overall premise. Yes it's a refreshing change from British Police and/or gangster films. Yes, it's not a period piece and yes, thank the Lord God almighty, embarrassing plank Hugh Grant is not in it. Movies about the current working class are sadly few and far between so a portrayal of an Englishman who isn't a bumbling in-bred retard is most welcome. But, it niggles me slightly that at a time where football is growing faster than ever before in the States we send over a film that illustrates a small and hideous part of the game. That said, a movie about a happily married middle class footie supporter would be as boring as most of their lives usually are, and we have demonstrated before that movies about violence without guns are one of our strong points. 'ID' and Alan Clarke's 'The Firm' spring to mind. The comparisons with Football Factory will be all too common, but if that film had never been made I think this one still would have.

But anyway, I always tend to pick out the little gripes. All in all this is a very good piece. Not totally authentic, not completely gritty but shys away from the clichés, (even going as far as using one of the stars of Football Factory in a bit-part) and provides some edgy entertainment and on the spot adrenaline. Unlike the ode to eternal disappointment, weirdly adopted by West Ham Utd 'I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles', this is a very promising foray and hopefully will pave the way for other larger-budget 'alternative lifestyle' flicks. I'm not convinced it will be in many DVD collections in five years time but it's unbending enough to deserve respect even for that alone.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
For me, more moving than 'It's a Wonderful Life', 23 September 2005

I just watched this movie again on the TV and have done at intervals of maybe four years since it's release. For the first time it has brought tears to eyes! It's just a beautiful, beautiful film. The performances are superlative, particularly of course from The Maestro, the soundtrack is thoughtfully and expertly mixed (as is the cast) and the interplay between the leads is genuinely heartwarming. Of course, the script and story underpin the work but the premise of adult learning from youth has only been rivalled by 'Rushmore' as far as I'm concerned. It's just lovely : ) Watch it, and when your kids are old enough to understand it make them watch it too.

10 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
Laughable, 8 September 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I thought Nick Love made a good film in Football Factory, but this is a massive step backwards. It's too early for an homage to Guy Richie so this can only be described as a complete rip-off. However, whereas 'Lock, Stock' and 'Snatch' were well-written, imaginative and clever stories this merely attempts to follow their formula to the letter (right down to the freeze-frame narratives), but without any of the style or wit. Even the choice of music is predictable, clumsy and over-stretched. The film jumps from the aforesaid freeze-frames to the mini-videos portraying the leads' entrance to clubs etc, but the accompanying 80's standards and the sheer volume of these shots takes away any impact the pieces might have had even if they had been included less than every five minutes.

The story itself is crime film by numbers too. Local crime-boss takes young kid under wing, makes millions of pounds but then they lose the lot in just six months due to drug-use. I doubt Aerosmith could have gone through that much cash and coke in that short time, and the notion that that the baddie's girl would still have gone for the pasty-faced, broke, coke-head boy in this state would be unbelievable in any other context than this waste of tape.

All that said, if you are a die-hard fan of the new wave of British gangster film, then you might get something out of this, even if it is just the knowledge that 'Face' is no longer the most forgettable example of the genre.

Wait for this on satellite TV if there is absolutely nothing else to watch (I'm including Dad's Army) and in the meantime if you want to see a truly great Costa-Del-Crime movie go and rent Sexy Beast.