You can dislike the punditry, but Merse is an impossible man to loath. 'It'd be like hating a shaggy dog that runs up to you and wants you to throw it a stick,' say the boys...
The summer window is officially open, and Premier League clubs have wasted no time in doing deals. But what do you remember of the transfer silly season so far?
Feature film G.B.H (not to be confused with the 1991 Michael Palin/Robert Lindsay drama series of the same name) stars Nick Nevern as Damien, a former football hooligan who is now a PC for the Met. Nevern and writer-director Simon Phillips are something of a cottage industry for films about football hoolies: they have 'The Rise And Fall Of A White Collar Hooligan' out this year, a sequel called 'White Collar Hooligan 2: England Away' in post-production, a film called 'Hooligan Wars' already in the can and 'The Hooligan Factory' in pre-production. While it is unlikely that any of these will get much of a theatrical release, there is clearly a market for this little genre of films on DVD. Dear reader, you are it, we guess.
The film is set against the backdrop of the 2011 London Riots, which for most of the film seems to be no more than a thematically handy device to illustrate the levels of anger and disenfranchisement in the streets that Damien, and his rookie partner Louise (Kellie Shirley, who played Carly Wicks in 'EastEnders') are policing. Damien suffers from anger management issues, and is constantly popping (presumably anti-psychotic) pills, throwing his weight around and roughing up suspects who have done things he regards as morally beyond the pale, for instance running a brothel or domestic abuse. The film suffers quite badly from believability issues as we see Damien beat a man senseless in the cells with no comeback whatsoever and then for some reason get detailed to drive a major criminal to prison, alone, in the middle of the night. Renegade cop Damien naturally stops at a deserted industrial estate to dish out a crunchy beating.
We're not saying that police brutality is implausible, but rather that it seems unlikely that a lowly Plod, only on the force for a few months, disliked by other officers and under scrutiny from his bosses, would be able to get away with these Vic Mackey-ish levels of loose cannon brutality. Somewhat hilariously, no less a personage than Steven Berkoff has a couple of scenes as 'Chief Constable'. Clearly if you have landed an acting name like Berkoff for your movie, you're going to be happy for him to be doing pretty much anything, but it did strike as rather unlikely that said Chief Constable would be dishing out regular one-on-one pep talks, warnings and briefings to a mere Police Constable rather than via, say, the chain of command.
Anyhoo, that's not a big deal really: the film is quite a solid story of how Damien finds himself torn between his football hooligan friends and his new life as a copper. Naturally, his old 'friends' don't want him to leave the firm. In truth, apart from some scenes where the usual bunch of Central Casting footy fan scumbags are watching the game in a pub and cheering/bullying some student type for spilling their pint etc etc, the fact that they are football thugs rather than any other sort of thug is tangential. The football team that they support remains unnamed, and football fan-dom generally just hums in the background as Damien tries to bond with a tearaway kid over the game, takes Louise to a match on a date and so on. We're not too sure what, if anything, the film is trying to say about football or football fans or the culture around the game. Over the next couple of weeks, we might revisit and review some previous entries in the conflicted policeman and/or hooligan genre - 'The Firm' and 'ID' spring to mind - and see how portrayals of football fans have changed.
Anyhow, the 2011 riots do eventually come to bear on the plot as Damien's old life, and old associates, come into contact with his uneasy new life as a policeman. You can probably guess how well that works out for him and those close to him...
It's not what you would call wonderfully original storytelling, but the story packs plenty of emotional punch. NB one scene in particular is extremely unpleasant to watch; the fact that you could tell that something like this was surely coming doesn't make it any more palatable. Overall, not an innovative film, but plenty to recommend it, well-acted and with some decent laughs in amongst the violence. Give it a whirl.
John Nicholson and Alan Tyers
Read football legend Ronnie Matthews recent Daily Telegraph column on John Terry and Joey Barton here; his ghost-writer Alan Tyers helped with some of the punctuation.
And read Johnny's book, 'The Meat Fix' here
Follow Alan on Twitter here
or Johnny here.