Image Entertainment presents
The Football Factory (2004)
"Truth is, I just love to fight."- Tommy Johnson (Danny Dyer)
Stars: Danny Dyer, Frank Harper, Roland Mandokian, Neil Maskell, Dudley Sutton
Other Stars: Tamer Hassan, Jamie Foreman, Alison Egan, Tony Denham, Calum McNabb
Director: Nick Love
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive strong language, brutal violence, drug use, sexuality
Run Time: 01h:27m:07s
Release Date: 2005-12-27
DVD ReviewAmerican sports fans, and even non-sports fans, have likely heard of the infamous hooligans of the soccer world, hearing tales of their running battles with police and rival gangs, in various European countries, especially England. Many hooligans have made good money over the last several years through a variety of memoirs and other assorted books, and the life of the hooligan has been brought to the screen on a few occasions, most notably in Alan Clarke's The Firm. One of the recent entries in the hoolie cinema genre is Nick Love's The Football Factory (for the unitiated, soccer is known as football in just about every country but the USA), an occasionally grim, often humorous look at members of a firm (aka gang) and the leadup to a hotly awaited clash with their biggest rivals.
While non-football fans may be lost by some of the nuances of English football culture, the story is easy enough to follow: set in and about London, Tommy (Danny Dyer) is a twentynothing member of the Chelsea firm, slogging through the week to make it to Saturday, when he and the rest of his mates face off against the opposition firm. When he and best friend Rod (Neil Maskell) unknowingly send a member of the Millwall firm to the hospital, the build-up to an upcoming clash between the two firm's teams becomes a mix of nightmares for Tommy and friends. A subplot sees Tommy's grandfather Bill (Dudley Sutton) preparing to leave England for Australia, only to have his plans unexpectedly derailed.
With the exception of Bill and his friend Albert, pretty much every male character in the film is a fairly vile piece of work. Tommy is scornful of what he sees as the workaday, materialistic world, but he lives in an either/or proposition; he can either be that, or a hooligan. The film's argument seems to be that men (or at least British men), without the unifying experience of a World War II, as Bill and Albert fought, have no way to bond in a shallow, materialistic culture. Bill and Albert are put forth as solid citizens, respected for doing their duty. But the men we see as part of the Chelsea firm are, to a man, largely cretins, devoid of any class or meaningful intelligence, spending their days scraping by, making enough money to spend their nights doing drugs, drinking, and picking up the occasional women. The presence of women is generally scorned in the firm; Tommy in particular refers to women only in terms of sex, describing how he is going to physically "ruin" them. His only mention of love goes to Rod, giving the firm a vague homoerotic quality. Rod is forced late in the film to decide between a normal relationship with a young middle-class woman or the firm, and there's no surprise in which he selects.
The film never really questions the motivations of those in the firm, beyond that "we can only be men through violence" argument. In an interesting touch, Love wrote his script so that the characters never, as far as I noticed, actually discuss football, the ostensible reason behind their whole world. The message then is that the game itself is meaningless, only the fight matters. Hooligans have often been charged with not being fans of the game at all, and the film adheres to that view. Love does keep his characters fairly lily-white in terms of racism; hooligans have traditionally been considered among the most virulently racist groups in England, and indeed most European countries where they support teams. Here, that angle is rarely played, and not surprisingly, as it would no doubt severely damage his characters' sympathies with many audiences. Violence, however, is something we can identify with in one way or another.You can view that as cynically as you wish.
All that said, Nick Love's direction is assured and vibrant, and he elicits confident performances from his actors, though Dyer's narration is sometimes a little overblown. The film's debts to Trainspotting, Goodfellas, Fight Club, and, in a more thematic sense, to A Clockwork Orange are perhaps too evident, such as in copying the Scorsese film's "Am I a clown to you?" scene, where Bright (Frank Harper) baits a younger member of the firm. Bright is essentially that Joe Pesci character, a psycho who is seen as a liability by many in the firm and who lives to dole out violence. It's easy to imagine many viewers finding him hilarious, but the writing makes it easy to do so, perhaps too easy. That should be the most obvious complaint about the film, that it portrays this bunch of petty crooks as people to admire, given their "live for the moment" ethos and love of casual violence and drugs. That this project was produced by Rockstar Games, makers of the notorious Grand Theft Auto series, shouldn't come as a surprise, but they perhaps cross a line when they go from a ridiculous video game to real-life affairs.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B-
|Aspect Ratio||2.35:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Shot on digital video and presented here via a PAL transfer, the film is presented at its original ratio of 2.35:1, but shows evidence of PAL defects like ghosting and shimmering. It wasn't something I found overly distracting most of the time, but it's there. Otherwise, detail and colors look good. Yellow, easy to read English subtitles are provided, which will come in very useful for many, given the sometimes difficult to understand accents.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: Three options are on hand here; I watched the film with the DTS soundtrack, and it fairly booms forth, with thumping music and sound effects. Also available are Dolby 5.1 and 2.0 options, and sampling of each showed them be fine options as well.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
5 TV Spots/Teasers
9 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Nick Love and actor Danny Dyer
Layers Switch: 01h:00m:14s
- Stills gallery
- Production designs gallery
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsCompelling if often distasteful, The Football Factory will be of interest to violence freaks as well as soccer fans. Image Entertainment's DVD features numerous extras to complement the feature, which is presented in a decent if slightly problematic transfer.
Jeff Wilson 2006-01-03