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

Reasons To Believe That Van Gaal Will Be The Best

Post comment

Some supporters sound oh so confident on Louis Van Gaal's excellence. Plus thoughts on shirt sales, best signings, football sevens and a good deal more besides...

Wilshere: Is He Smoking Enough?

4 comments

That might be the real problem here. There certainly isn't much to worry about when a 22-year-old has a wee puff of a cigarette on his jollies, so why the consternation?

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

H

e made his power play to try and get Sheikhy to raise his wages or trade him to PSG. PSG were probably not interested and he is stuck with no cake and no vacation. @Jay_D> Surely you jest about FFP being real, right? All Platini is doing is making billionaries pay measly fines, so he and his cronies can get rich. If a fool can pay 50 mil for David Luiz, he will happily pay some fine to UEFA. FFP has failed as for it to succeed UEFA had to take it...

Synergy
Toure: I am staying with City

G

uess we can expect Toure's explanation of his behaviour around the same time Pete Townshend publishes his book then.

ceeps
Toure: I am staying with City

D

amn you Yaya, don't scare me like that! I only ate the icing. I didn't eat the soft and scrumptious middle - I will buy you another cake!

MCFC87
Toure: I am staying with City

Latest Photos

Footer 365

Premier League: Manchester United's Juan Mata backs Louis van Gaal's winning mentality

Juan Mata has hailed Louis van Gaal and believes that the Dutchman will bring a winning mentality to Manchester United.

Transfer news: Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger prepared to take gamble on Calum Chambers

Arsene Wenger admits signing Calum Chambers from Southampton is somewhat of a gamble, but one he believes will pay off.

Friendly: Raheem Sterling earns Liverpool 1-0 pre-season win over Olympiakos in Chicago

Raheem Sterling scored a lone early goal as Liverpool beat Olympiakos 1-0 in Chicago in the International Champions Cup.

Mail Box

Reasons To Believe That Van Gaal Will Be The Best

Some supporters sound oh so confident on Louis Van Gaal's excellence. Plus thoughts on shirt sales, best signings, football sevens and a good deal more besides...

Are Pre-Season Tours Really A Problem?

Are pre-season tours really a problem? Liverpool went to Australia last summer and it didn't prevent them from having a good season. Plus, thoughts on LvG and keepers...

© 2014 British Sky Broadcasting Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media property