*I usually write freelance for a men's magazine, so the tone isn't as intellectual as some of the reviews I've read on here!
. . .
An American whose opinion of British society was solely based on the film-industry’s output would divide the country into two distinct social-groups. One consisting of neurotic aristocrats having hilarious romps and being eccentric. The other living in a nightmarish world of heroin, unemployment, borstals, kestral-murder and, with the release of Nick Love’s second directorial effort, football violence.
The Football Factory is based on the infamous Chelsea Headhunters ‘firm’, who use their team’s matches as an excuse to organise fights with rival supporters. After an awkward Goodfellas-inspired opening, the film settles to concentrate on three central characters; narrator and stereotypical twenty-something ‘lad’ Tommy Johnson (Danny Dyer), twitchy rat-boy Zebedee and mockney hardman David Harris. Support is provided by Ferris, an elderly war-veteran resentful of the hooligan’s admiration and dreaming of an escape to Australia.
Although Tommy enjoys the adrenaline-rush of fighting, he’s plagued by visions of a serious beating and starts to question whether the lifestyle is ‘worth it’. Along with friend Nick, he’s inadvertently upset several Millwall fans, just when the FC Cup has pitched the two teams, and thus their firms, against each other.
All the staples of British film are evident. The Trainspotting-style insightful voiceover, pumping Britpop soundtrack and defiance of social-conformity (jobs and women are rubbish, etc). Token comedy moments are provided by two drug-addicted pensioners and a hilariously blinkered portrayal of Liverpool (apparently just a deserted wasteland, consisting of four scallies and a burnt-out car).
Love portrays the hooligans as surprisingly intelligent, misunderstood people, embodying the brave, noble spirit of St. George. Which is somewhat difficult to accept if you’ve ever spent a train-journey desperately trying to avoid eye-contact with drunken ‘casuals’.
Unfortunately, the 90s pop-video cinematography and clichéd subject-matter feel dated. Yet Love’s obvious enthusiasm and the accurate, energetic performances are harder to resist than a bottle of gin. A brainless, entertaining 90-minutes.