Another highlight of the Edinburgh Film Festival for me, and one that I actually paid to see! Starring Elijah Wood, Green Street (or Hooligans for those folks who don't know what Green Street is, including me!) is a film about English Football Hooliganism, mainly between the West Ham and the Millwall Firms (Gangs).
Gritty, violent, stylish, but in no way does it glorify the lifestyle. The bad is shown to so heavily outweigh the good, and when people fight they get hurt. There's not that much good to be seen in the movie, but it is a very good movie, and I would think something which captures the feelings and beliefs of these groups of people very well.
The opening fight scene is pretty harsh, and I have to say the only "enjoyable" fight scene of the film. Now by enjoyable, I mean in a Hollywood entertainment sense, because the violence in this movie is so real, you don't want to think that it fits the standard Hollywood template of violence and glorify it in anyway, however this scene does slightly, and perhaps to grab the audience because hereafter you'll be shocked and uneasy.
The second fight scene of the movie deserves pointing out as well, because it combines some great filming effects and camera work to provide a different look to a scene shot so many times before. It's handheld and close up, and these things are not my particular favourite in Hollywood fight scenes, because you miss so much you have to end up guessing what's happening, I wish they'd look more to Asian movie makers on how to do this right. However the style in this scene comes through with the use of a couple of effects which make the whole fight seem quite surreal, perhaps how the main character views it. It really gave some excitement and confusion to the scene, yet keeping the feeling of violence very real, and very nasty.
Now, onto perhaps two of the most controversial parts of the movie, and no, I've already talked about the fighting and that's not one of them. Firstly the casting of Elijah Wood as the American who discovers this world of Football Firms. Many people are saying that he just doesn't suit the movie, that he's totally out of place, well I agree but only to a point. Yes, for most of the film he's out of place, his laughing moments seem awkward, like those moments when you tell a joke and your foreign friend doesn't catch it but laughs anyway because everyone else does. You see, I think perhaps he is supposed to be looking totally out of place and awkward here, I mean he's come from Harvard and is a Journalist, why would that make him feel easy in amongst UK organised Football Hooligans?
He has redemption though, in the final act of the film he faces a tough decision, and I really do believe it's from this point on that he comes into his element and gives a very good performance. Still, there is that stigma associated with his most famous role to date, and it's very prominent here. The "fish out of water" style and awkwardness is also easily taken as bad acting, that said I could be wrong and it could actually be bad acting!
The second controversial part of the movie is something that perhaps only people in the UK will grab, Charlie Hunnam's accent. His cockney accent is pretty bad, there are moments when he settles into it, but there is a distinct feeling that he's over pronunciating much of what he's saying, particularly the Cockney inflections.
However, putting the accent to the side his performance is really good and very convincing, when you see him give an order, take control of a situation or in the midst of a fight, you believe who he is 100%. Without a doubt he appears strong and single minded, and a very violent character.
Yet for me, it's Leo Gregory that steals the screen. His performance as Bover is totally immersive and you're drawn to him on screen. If I remember Lexi Alexander, the Director and Writer, introduced him at the Q&A after the EIFF premiere as
the UK's answer to Sean Penn, and you can see why. He has all those qualities that draw you to Penn. Let's hope he's recognised for it.
Both Marc Warren and Claire Forlani are just as convincing and give strong performances, I've always liked Warren as an actor and Forlani is a new find for me. These two have a good chemistry, although not all that you'd expect from a married couple, Forlani gives an emotional performance.
Geoff Bell as Hatcher, the leader of the Millwall Firm, is a true psycho. Totally broken and void of the understanding of morals, you can see he's consumed by complete hatred and anger. He just seemed such a real character and a truly scary man!
The ideas of retribution, morals and karma are very strong throughout this movie. It's an example of how good the script is when you can understand the allure of the Firm for the character of Buckner, as well as see and understand the bonding between the members. It does a lot for the audience to help them understand the reasoning behind it all, and this is where I think the controversy for Hollywood lies. These are the parts that can be viewed as portraying a positive light on the Football Firms rather than the actual fighting, and it's not hard to see that. Yet I do think it's balanced by the retribution and karmic endings shown.
Overall a strong movie, although Wood's casting is very unusual and seems quite awkward during the first two acts of the film, coupled with the poor accent of the lead Englishman and there lie the negative aspects. The story, portrayal of the Firms and the violence itself all give for a strong and hard hitting movie, although perhaps more attractive to a British audience.