Football hooligans organize themselves into firms that represent their favorite team.
It is probably not the best time to be bringing out a remake of The Firm, Alan Clarke’s 1988 football hooliganism classic that set the bench mark for the numerous imitations of the last few years (see Green Street and Football Factory ). Now this may be down to the fact that it will be adding fuel to the fire of the Millwall/West Ham rivalry that kicked off rather seriously recently but I like to think it has more to do with the fact that (and I may just be dreaming here) no one cares anymore.
Because lets face it, once you’ve seen one football hooliganism film you’ve seen them all, right?
Well I’d love to say the answer is no, that Nick Love has reached new found territory with his remake, but sadly the changes he has made from the original starring Gary Oldman did nothing to stop a resounding ‘who cares’ spurt forth from my throat.
The film, as we are painfully reminded by the brilliantly vague neon opening subtitle, is set in ‘London, the 80s’. It follows Dom (Callum McNab) who, tired of his monotonous life simply hanging around day after day getting stoned and watching breakdancing with his best mate, has a chance encounter with Bex (Paul Anderson) the leader of the local firm. With this starts Dom’s infatuation with a new lifestyle. He becomes obsessed with moulding his new style and attitude in the image of Bex and he soon becomes a firm favourite, joining the lads in their rivalry with the yeti’s (Daniel Mays) Millwall firm.
Love’s film departs from the original in its focus on Dom, who is absent from Clarke’s film which simply follows the exploits of Bex and his journey towards uniting the three London firms for the upcoming European Championships.
By displacing the narrative onto the youthful Dom, Love is attempting to engage with a different theme. Rather than focusing purely on the violence and heroics of Bex he is tapping into the days of his youth, it would seem, chronicling the dangers of the dull working class lifestyle for youngsters in London during the 80’s. The firm acts as an escape route for Dom but, expectedly, it’s not the right route to be going down. This may seem like Love is indeed attempting to bring a new perspective, an original twist on the football thug story but its not engaging enough. What it boils down to in the end is a simple story of a boy getting mixed up in violence, and discovering it’s not all its cracked up to be.
The original sees Bex become a heroic symbol of pride and loyalty for the London firms whereas here he is just a bastard who accidently leaves his Stanley knife lying around for his toddler son to stick in his mouth (although this does occur in the original also). Additionally the point of the violence (not that they ever need one) is supposedly aimed towards creating a national firm but this is sadly never realised, or in fact ever mentioned again from its first utterance. What we are witness to is simply a possessed man who can’t let go of his ego and the boy who, in idolising him, is let down to discover that he hasn’t got as good a grip on life as he thought.
The Firm certainly has its charms, however. The script is often hilarious; the incessant swear ridden cockney banter producing the occasional guttural bursts of laughter (try, for instance, to hear the line ‘splosh like a kebab’ without emitting a chuckle) but sadly even this gets a little tiresome. All in all it’s a film that has been seen before and can be predicted from the outset. It may be funny but its humour holds the entirety of its charm.
I think what it boils down to is that this film really didn’t need to get made. It attempts to break away from the original but doesn’t fully succeed. What is more, with the other recent firm films lying still in our fairly short term memory, there is even more of a sense of déjà vu about it all. Football violence is bad, we get it.