Johnny and Al's DVD Review Of The Firm

No, not the 1993 Tom Cruise classic, but the story of violent football hooliganism starring Gary Oldman and Phil Davis. According to John & Al, it's essential viewing...

Last Updated: 25/10/12 at 19:09 Post Comment

Latest Articles

F365's Top Ten Worst January Panic Buys

Post comment

This transfer window has been quieter than a Bjork convention, but here are ten examples of why panicking in January could be a recipe for disaster. Oh Fernando...

Oh Danny Boy, We Almost Forgot You...

Post comment

It's been a month since Danny Welbeck started a PL game and, sorry Daniel, we have barely noticed. It's difficult to see him forcing his way back into this team...

All Articles

Last week we reviewed so-so football hooligan feature G.B.H. It got us searching through the film collection and we found a dusty copy of what is, in our opinion, the best film in this sub-genre: The Firm. We are speaking of the 1989 TV movie, made under BBC2's Screen Two aegis, that stars Gary Oldman and Phil Davis. If you rent 'The Firm' and get 1993 vintage Tom Cruise as a lawyer discovering the dark side of corporate America, don't say you weren't warned. You slags.

Oldman, in one of his best performances, is Bex Bissell: an upwardly mobile working class estate agent in 1987 suburban London. He has a wife and a child, a modest but defiantly aspirational property, a good line in sales patter and a drive to make something of himself. The film is a savage satire on Thatcherism, among other things, because this shining example of 1980s self-made get-up-and-go is, of course, a football hooligan.

Bex is the 'top boy' of West Ham-affiliated hooligan crew the ICC and has aspirations (that word again) of creating a nationwide hooligan firm to unite as one in an assault on the 1988 European Championships in West Germany. This brings him into conflict with the leaders of two other club's gangs. One of these, Oboe, is dispatched with efficient savagery, although not before he has maimed one of Bex's young soldiers with a razor. The unfortunate youngster is played by much loved Benny Green off of 'Grange Hill', making this a distinctly upsetting scene for viewers of a certain age.

The other rival leader, Phil Davis' Yeti, proves distinctly more problematic and pursuit of this opponent obsesses Bex to the point that it destroys his life and relationships. Viewers are invited to see the quick-witted but essentially straightforward brutality of Bex in a queasily favourable light compared to the more modern, slick and ultimately less manly methods of Yeti. At only 70 minutes, this film is superbly taut and efficient: along with the descent into madness that unfettered ambition can bring, it also explores the alienation of the urban working class by Thatcherism's brave new world.

Several excellent character actors do a lot with not much screen time, for instance Corrie's Charles Lawson as a former soldier with nothing else in his life but the camaraderie of the punch-up. Lesley Manville - who was married to Oldman at the time, but not for much longer - is brilliant as the wife powerfully sexually drawn to Bex's blend of savagery, charm, wit and rather peculiar femininity. She cannot understand why he needs "the buzz" to give his life meaning, screaming "What's so bad about being normal?"

Talking of camp, better than almost any other film we have seen, The Firm captures that odd blend of fruity "ooh get her" teasing and powerful closeness that are apparently at odds with, but often intrinsic, to all-male groups, especially in ostensibly macho environments. The Firm is a fascinating study of the male group dynamic, and the destruction that one driven, charismatic visionary can wreak.

No football is shown in the film, beyond a park kickabout at the beginning, and in a final scene where members of the gang are interviewed by a TV documentary crew, it is explicitly stated (by Phil Mitchell!) that "if they stop the rucks at football, we'll go boxing, we'll go snooker, we'll go darts."

Incidentally, there are almost no police at all in the film, save for an appearance by a pair of jaded, ineffectual CID investigators who turn up at Bex's house, quite clearly several steps behind the hooligans. Among the other comments the film is making is that Bex and company are operating outside mainstream society; there is a scene in which the gang watch a news programme where a talking head posits on the nature of hooliganism and football culture as if these fans were from an entirely different species. For younger viewers in 2012, that might give some context as to how football fans in the late 1980s were regarded as being outside of decent society, sub-human, and we all know how that worked out.

Directed by Alan Clarke, this is a superb film which takes in so much material without wasting a second. Essential viewing.

John Nicholson and Alan Tyers

Alan has ghost-written a book for football legend Ronnie Matthews.

Read Johnny's book, 'The Meat Fix' here

Follow Alan on Twitter here

or Johnny here.

Football365 Facebook Fan Page

The Football365 fan page is a great place to meet like minded people, have football related discussions and make new friends.

Most Commented

Readers' Comments

I

was there, it was embarrassing - the team looked totally unbalanced from the off, the defence was woeful and when Mikel came off injured it got even worse with nobody in front of them. Up front on several occasions we had opportunities and nobody would shoot - it was a complete farse! On the back of Salah's performance I'm glad there is talk of getting shot...

Fly1ngh1gh
Cup defeat shames Mourinho

G

reat to see Tommy Rosicky getting some love. A wonderful player. Such a pity we lost so long to injury. I was so excited when we signed him, this resurgence only makes the absences seem more of a lost opportunity.

cheshire-gooner
16 Conclusions: FA Cup Fourth Round Weekend

A

pparently Chiles has blamed Twitter trolls for his exit. Proof that even the worst things can get great results at times.

cheshire-gooner
Adrian Chiles to leave ITV

Latest Photos

Footer 365

Contract news: Robin van Persie unsure if he will be offered new Manchester United deal

Robin van Persie says he has no idea if he will be offered a new contract at Manchester United.

Manchester United U21s beat Liverpool 2-1 as Victor Valdes makes first appearance for the club

Goals from Nick Powell and Paddy McNair gave Manchester United's U21 side victory over Liverpool at Leigh Sports Village.

FA Cup: Giant-killers Bradford handed Sunderland or Fulham showdown in fifth round

Bradford's reward for knocking Chelsea out of the FA Cup is a fifth-round showdown with either Sunderland or Fulham.

Mail Box

You're Man Utd, For Crying Out Loud!

Defending a 0-0 draw with Cambridge on the grounds that other teams lost to lower-league opposition is not befitting of Man United. We're inclined to agree with Mailboxers...

A Massive Mailbox On A Weekend Of Wonder

We unsurprisingly have plenty of mails on a wonderful FA Cup weekend, including thoughts on Palace, Van Gaal, Phil Jones, Chelsea, Mourinho and Yaya Toure...

© 2015 Sky Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media company