Wednesday, 7 June 2017

The Firm (1989)

Year of Release:  1989
Director:  Alan Clarke
Screenplay:  Al Hunter Ashton
Starring:  Gary Oldman, Lesley Manville, Phil Davis, Charles Lawson
Running Time:  70 minutes
Genre:  Drama

London, 1988:  Clive "Bex" Bissel (Oldman) is a 30 year old estate agent, who lives an apparently comfortable suburban life with his wife, Sue (Manville) and baby son.  However when the weekend comes, Bissel is the leader of the ICC (Inter City Crew), a hooligan "firm" (an organised gang who attach themselves to soccer teams and go to matches with the sole purpose of fighting rival gangs).  Bissel has an ambitious plan to unite the rival firms into one for a European championship, with the aim of causing havoc on an international scale.  However the rivalries are not so easily put aside.

This made-for-TV movie was the final work from acclaimed director Alan Clarke, who died in 1990 at the age of 54.  Like much of his work, this is an examination of male aggression and social commentary, which is as much about Britain at the end of the 1980s as it is about soccer thugs.  Hooliganism was a real hot button topic at the time, and these are not the traditional disaffected young men, they are mostly not "victims of society" but middle-class people with good jobs and plenty of money, who commit the violence for the "buzz".  This is an exciting film, shot with a constantly roving camera a times almost shoving the viewer into the middle of these guys, and the film has a real sense of danger (apparently some of the fighting scenes weren't entirely fake).  Gary Oldman gives a terrifying performance as the mercurial Bex, always well-dressed, charismatic and intelligent, but who can turn on a dime and unleash savage brutality.  This is definitely a film about men, and women don't really get a look in, the only major female character is Sue, and Lesley Manville does not have that much to do, but she does appear in a very disturbing sequence that was cut from the broadcast version of the film, but is available in the "director's cut".  Alan Clarke himself was a committed soccer fan and hated the hooligans for ruining the game, the film makes a point of never actually showing any soccer at only one point are any of them seen at a game, and they aren't watching it.  The film periodically erupts into violence, which is sudden, savage and brutal.  It might be a TV movie but it is definitely not for the faint of heart.  A brutal, confrontational work.

Gary Oldman gets bang out of order as the leader of The Firm  

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