The Football Factory

Ahh, those lovable hooligans. Completely pointless thug-u-drama.

Released in 2004, certified UK-18. Reviewed on 27 May 2004 by Scott Morris
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Football Hooligans. Casuals. Thugs. Scum. Whatever you call them, it's unlikely that you'll be thinking of them in a positive light. While recent PR campaigns have attempted to marginalise the violence from English fans in particular the recent decision to bar 2000+ supporters from travelling to the upcoming European Championships show that the beautiful game still has its ugly side. The Football Factory has nothing to do with the manufacture of beloved leather spheres, but is instead an adaptation of the novel of the same name dealing with a 'firm' of Chelsea supporters whose interest in the club seems largely limited to which fans of opposing teams they can beat up on a Saturday afternoon.

Tommy Johnson (Danny Dyer) typifies the breed, hurtling towards thirty working a dead end job living for the weekends of drinking, screwing and brawling. His best mate, Rod (Neil Maskell) does likewise. Come to think of it, so does wideboy thug lieutenant Billy Bright (Frank Harper), a man with the balls to run the show if not the brains. He's a bit unstable, see, even by the standards of these nutcases, just as likely to start on younger members of their crew like coke snorting, house breaking upstart Zeberdee (Roland Manookian).

Frankly, none of the above are likely to engender much in the way of sympathy, given most sane people will rightly view these chaps as the lowlife scuzzbuckets that they are. The humanity of the movie is provided purely by Bill Farrell, (Dudley Sutton) a war veteran who occasionally tries to point out that Danny's wasting his life, to little effect. The only balanced character in a film full of nutters, racists, bigots and sociopaths, the fact that Danny is tangentially thinking about a change of lifestyle due to some harrowing dreams and Rod's dalliance with a court clerk met in the course of his chosen recreational activities hardly has us rooting for a change of heart.

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Just as well, seeing as it never materialises rendering the movie little more than a ninety minute threat intoned in cockerny wideboy accents by cockerny wideboy stereotypes. While there's a certain amount of entertainment value to be pulled from it, it's only because it's so over the top as to feel more like an extended Fast Show sketch than a movie. The occasional beatings certainly look brutal enough, although the only people liable to gain much pleasure from this alone are the kind of people liable to already be indulging in such proclivities and are probably past the point of redemption.

Certainly Football Factory takes few steps to point out how barbaric and pointless it's stars' lives are, and to be fair it's obvious enough that it doesn't have to for all but said minority. Sadly, these Neanderthal elements are exactly the people who need it pointed out to them in bold letters that "By the way, this is wrong". For everyone else it's not saying anything we weren't already well aware of, making the point of the exercise rather elusive. Not films have to beat viewers around the head with moral messages to be enjoyable, but there's just nothing much in The Football Factory to care about, be it characters, story or location - London's grim estates hardly providing a stimulating visual backdrop.

Aside - Why I stopped paying credence to Empire, part of an occasional series, "Provides much more than just bullyboys kicking the crap out of each other. A film that's less concerned with football violence and more intrigued by the destructive nature of male bonding. Scott Russon, Empire". I'm male. I assume this other Scott, disgrace to the fine forename that he is, is also male. I have male friends. At no point have I felt the need to join with them to beat up any rival football supporters, Avril Lavigne supporters or Transporter supporters. This film has nothing to do with the male condition in this current age and everything to do with mindless brutality, a Fight Club stripped of any meaning apart from the visceral thrill.

While certain scenes are admittedly tending towards funny, especially when featuring Jamie Foreman's taxi driver who gets a grand total of no respect, but if the flogging of stereotype horses doesn't float your boat you'd be advised to give this a wide berth.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 2/5 TippyMarks.

Nick Love
Cast list:
Danny Dyer (Tommy Johnson)
Frank Harper (Billy Bright)
Neil Maskell (Rod)
Roland Manookian (Zeberdee)
Jamie Foreman (Taxi Driver)
Tamer Hassan (Millwall Jack)
Dudley Sutton (Bill Farrell)