The Football Factory – review
This was originally posted on MovieRob as part of Genre Grandeur in September 2016. Thanks to Rob and Prime Six for coming up with another great idea for Genre Grandeur. The Football Factory came immediately to mind when I heard the words ‘realistic films’ and love it or hate it (I love it – which some people do find slightly amusing) it’s certainly a well made film, telling an accurate story about the lives of some male Brits.
The film follows young Londoner Tommy Johnson (Danny Dyer) as he and his Chelsea supporter pals go around fighting rival football supporters, taking the piss out of each other, drinking beer and taking drugs. It’s hard to say why I like this film so much, but I do – I love it. It makes me laugh mainly, the characters are weirdly likable and the dialogue (some of it ad-libbed) is very funny. It’s an exciting, fun and thoroughly entertaining movie, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched it.
But what makes it so realistic? Football hooliganism isn’t much of a thing in the UK anymore and though the fight scenes are brutally real to watch (the sound of knuckle against head is a horrible sound), brawls of that scale don’t really go on in this country. It’s more the little details in The Football Factory – the writing and the characters, that bring it to life. Though interestingly, director Nick Love did use real ex-football hooligans to bulk up the cast in fight scenes and has claimed there were moments it really did ‘kick off’. I’ve watched the making of documentary on YouTube (highly recommend if you’re a fan) and it’s not hard to believe at all – there was a very, very faint line between cast and character.
It’s mainly down to Love’s own knowledge of, not just football hooliganism but the actual characters in the film, that gives it such a realistic edge. It’s clear that The Football Factory was made by someone who understands the genre, the story they’re telling and the people they’ve written about. The characters are all spot on, from the slang words they use – “don’t get lemon” – to the clothes they wear. Hacket, Stone Island and Burberry are all brands worn by the characters and even spoken of in the script – “some nutter in a Stone Island jumper and a blade in my face” – (football hooligans have always favoured certain fashion brands, like wearing a type of uniform).
Whilst it’s true that 1989 film The Firm might just have the edge as football violence favourite, this film was made of the time and what Love manages to do is capture a real type of modern culture in The Football Factory. Twinned with fantastic, well developed characters who are mainly just normal people bored with their lives, trying to find a bit of excitement out on the terraces.
“Was it all worth it?”
But the thing I love most about The Football Factory – and apologies in advance for spoilers – is that there is no moral conscience. Usually a movie like this would show the lead character learning the error of his ways and realising there’s more to life than senseless violence and sitting in the boozer with his pals. But there’s none of that life affirming bollocks here. No redemption at all. It’s an attitude and an ending I can’t help but admire a lot and speaking honestly it just makes me smile. I guess it could be argued that The Football Factory depicts violence in too much of a positive light but I don’t agree with this. The characters shortfalls and faults are displayed, as are the negative effects the fighting has on their lives. You don’t leave the film thinking of them as heroes (at all), but you do get to know them and perhaps understand them a little more. Maybe they made you laugh once or twice too. Like real life, the characters are not one dimensional – they have good and bad sides and if the film had some message about hooliganism being wrong it would have felt like a cop out anyway. This is a way of life to these people. And apart from their rivals willing to fight them, they’re not hurting anyone.
“Course it fucking was.”
As I always say, The Football Factory won’t be for everyone but there’s certainly worse ways you could spend ninety-one minutes of your life (like watching an ACTUAL football match…yawn). Generally it’s a fun film with a rocking soundtrack and entertaining characters and scenes but important to note in this review particularly, that The Football Factory captures what life is like for some people. Not just the fighting and the hooliganism, but the pub culture, the drugs and trying to pull a bird, the boredom of a dead end job Monday to Friday and the excitement for the weekend. It’s not just a film about hooliganism and a lot of can relate in places, maybe a tiny bit.