Unjustly expelled from Harvard when a stash of cocaine is found in his possession, Matt impulsively flies to London to live with his sister and her husband Steve. When Steve's brother Pete is bribed to take him to the soccer game, Matt must fight to be accepted... literally, as Pete's GSE (Green Street Elite) 'firm' is attacked on the way home from the match. Matt becomes attracted to both the violence and his new friends. Suspicion, lies and unsettled scores force a tragic confrontation when London's most fierce football rivals - Millwall and West Ham United - are set to go head to head, leaving nobody unscathed.
Such a great idea for a film. Such a poor realisation. And the mistakes, beginning with the casting, come thick and fast right from the start. Elijah Wood plays an American. While he is American in real life, that doesn't mean he makes a convincing American in a movie - Lord of the Rings just hasn't washed off enough. It's like watching Frodo magically transported into today's world.
The ring he carries is now the false accusation of cocaine possession. Which of course, being an American college student of journalism he would never, not in his wildest dreams, even think of touching. But he does take a bribe from his room mate and spend the money on a ticket to London, where his sister now lives with her British husband.
Matt completely fails to endear himself to the audience when, going from pious, falsely accused to ungrateful little sod with a drinking problem and a chain smoking habit in a matter of 30 minutes, he ignores his sister's warnings and moves in with her husband's black sheep brother Pete. Pete himself, despite being a schoolteacher, acts like a complete lout and, being broke, blackmails his brother for beer money.
In most films, myriad contradictions in characters round them out and make them real. But Hooligans' crude and staged contradictions are just as laughable as the sight of the apple-cheeked Elijah sucking on cigarettes... which he does inconsistently - now he's sucking, now he isn't. In other continuity glitches, bruises on his face appear and disappear - although it's hard to tell because Woods almost always has black rings around his eyes anyway.
In laboured scene-setting and cultural explaining (perhaps a side effect of aiming a film at the American audience as perceived by patronising Europeans), London is established by pitifully unrealistic airport announcements that mention the airport's name (just in case you got off the plane in the wrong country?), "Mind the Gap" -heavy tube scenes and some of the klunkiest dialogue you'll find outside of pornography.
In one pub scene, the East-End cockney rhyming slang is explained by the people speaking to each other. As in "Wanna duke it out mate? By which I mean 'settle this with fisticuffs of course'. He he he." Of course, not many people would understand what it meant, but that's why subtitles were invented.
Pete Dunham's accent is unconvincing and his "look at me, I'm a movie star" style of acting is unbearably self-conscious. This is moviemaking by numbers and it shows. By her own clumsiness, writer director Lexi Alexander illustrates one of the pitfalls of the auteur school of filmmaking (where one person holds most creative control by both writing and directing a work) - everybody (even an artist) needs help deciding what works and what really doesn't. More importantly, nobody should be allowed to waste the kind of money it takes to make a film!
Green Street appears to have fooled a few American critics - among them a New York Times critic - into believing it's a nuanced allegory for sexual sublimation though violence. Yes, it does explore violence - particularly the idea that it's hard-wired into men, gives them pleasure, and just needs to be activated - but Hooligans is no Fight Club. It's likely to make you wonder if men aren't just a little pathetic. Or why, in a terribly old fashioned move, men are given all the blame for violence when (in this century at least) we know women are just as capable of behaving atrociously.
So, this car wreck of a movie a must see - if you're after dinner table conversation and like getting laughs. But most discerning moviegoers will find the experience of watching Green Street Hooligans deeply irritating.
- Jean Barker
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