It’s sometimes easy to forget just how vast the cultural differences are between America and Europe. Of course, there’s the accents, and the cuisine, but some aspects are often overlooked or unknown. Green Street Hooligans takes a raw look at the undercover football (soccer) firms in England- which are drastically different from even the most intense sports fans in America.
The movie begins with Harvard Journalism major, Matt Buckner (Elijah Wood), whom gets wrongfully accused of possessing cocaine, which actually belongs to his roommate. With no other options, Matt flies to London, England to stay with his older sister, Shannon (Claire Forlani) and her husband, Steve (Marc Warren). On his very first day in town, Matt is introduced to Steve’s younger brother, Pete (Charlie Hunnam), an avid football fan. Shortly into the movie we discover that Pete is not just a fan of football- he is a member of a “firm”- an organized gang of fans whom basically support their team by provoking the opposing teams’ fans into fights after matches.
Though it starts as an innocent fascination, Matt soon finds himself completely enveloped in Pete’s world. He gets accepted into their firm as the novelty “yank”, and together, with the rest of the guys, fights against various other firms to defend their team’s (West Ham United) honor. Matt’s association with the firm causes turmoil between he and his sister, and within himself- after all, what does a Harvard student know about street fighting and gangs? As Matt falls deeper and deeper into the Green Street Elite, we’re left wondering if he’s in too deep- though there’s really no chance to turn back.
For the most part, I found Green Street Hooligans to be a sturdy film. Firms are a true reality in England; the firm in this movie, in particular, is based on one of West Ham’s most notorious firms, Inter City Firm. Writer and director, Lexi Alexander, presents the movie in an engaging, fast-paced, stylish manner, leaving the viewer completely captivated with each moment that passes.
The violence in the film has been criticized frequently, mostly due to the fact that it’s somewhat exaggerated in comparison to the real life firms. Though a bit gratuitous at times, I never found the violence to be distracting from the story line, and in fact, found that it furthered and helped develop the plot.
Elijah Wood being cast as the lead role, however, made less sense to me. Though I am a fan of Wood’s acting in the film, it’s still hard to believe him as the character he’s playing. He’s much more believable at the start of the film as the naïve and timid Harvard undergrad, but towards the end of the movie, you really have to squint at the screen in order to buy that his character has evolved into a hard-edged thug. Meanwhile, Charlie Hunnam steals the show as the loud, Cockney, leader of the firm. He plays the role perfectly- at all times completely tough and threatening, but also warm-hearted and kind. The depth and complexity of his character makes him clearly stand out in the film. Also notable is Marc Warren, whose character sees a surprising and enthralling twist towards the end of the movie. Warren plays the role expertly, with exquisite emotion.
Green Street Hooligans is an interesting and exciting (though, perhaps, slightly exaggerated) look at the culture of England football fans. The plot does become fairly predictable, especially towards the movie’s end, though that still does not distract from the overall strength of the movie. Through the violence, there’s a nicely developed story and endearing characters- making the film a thrilling combination of suspense and drama.