Writer-director Nick Love has taken a big gamble in remaking Alan Clarke’s 1989 television drama The Firm, which is widely considered to be the toughest and most insightful screen depiction of football hooligans. Wisely Love hasn’t tried to slavishly imitate Clarke’s approach and has instead fashioned a mid-1980s coming-of-age tale, in which the central character is not the firm’s ‘General’ Bex (superbly played in the original by Gary Oldman), but an East End council estate teenager, Dom (Calum McNab), who’s seduced by Bex’s charisma and lifestyle.
Dom’s everyday life is routine: a bit of breakdancing with his mates, smoking cannabis and helping out his roofer father at work. The estate agent Bex (Paul Anderson) and his crew on the other hand, dressed in the latest European sportswear labels and flashing plenty of cash, offer Dom a glamourous, exciting alternative. The problem is that, while the new recruit enjoys the buzz of travelling with the West Ham mob to confrontations with rival firms, he’s not someone who relishes violence. And Bex is a leader who expects every man to stand up and be counted, especially when it comes to taking revenge on Millwall’s Yeti (Daniel Mays).
The digitally shot The Firm is an unashamed celebration of mainstream soccer casual culture: hence the primary-coloured tracksuits and trainers, the soul/jazz funk soundtrack and the camaraderie and bravado engendered by away day trips. No football matches are actually attended, the fight scenes are chaotic and mostly broken up by the police, and American viewers will be puzzled by the lingo of ‘lagging’, ‘melts’, ‘dry lunches’ and ‘diddicots’. It’s Love’s most enjoyable film since his underrated debut Goodbye Charlie Bright.
General release from Fri 18 Sep.