It’s been 10 years since everyone’s favourite Hobbit, Elijah Wood, surprised us all by taking the lead role in the hit British hooligan drama, Green Street. Despite originally receiving mixed reviews, the film is now renowned as arguably the best piece of football fan fiction ever made and kick started an era of violent sports-related movies during the aptly named noughties.
Non-sports fans, who might have immediately dismissed this genre, are encouraged to dabble into the world of the footy hooligan film. Many similarities can be found to critically acclaimed British classics such as Layer Cake, or Guy Ritchie’s epic duo: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch.
"For pure adrenaline fuelled action, look no further than Rise of the Footsoldier"
For pure adrenaline fuelled action, look no further than Rise of the Footsoldier. Based on a true story, it follows the life of Carlton Leach, a former member of West Ham’s Inter City Firm (ICF) turned east-end mobster. Leach’s tale offers more than just two sets of supporters mindlessly kicking seven bells out of each other; the guns, the drugs and the gangster politics give it a gripping story.
You can perhaps argue that football violence films lack the comedic value of Ritchie’s box-office successes, but then you obviously haven’t heard Charlie Hunnam’s embarrassing Cockney accent in Green Street. Added to that, Danny Dyer’s attempted acting in The Football Factory is worthy of the Hammersmith Apollo and provides further evidence that he was always destined to join the Z-listers of Albert Square.
The better films in this category are the ones which tap into the tribal nature of football supporters. Nick Love’s The Firm and Pat Holden’s Awaydays use young, poor and bored lads as their protagonists as they experience the initial excitement of hooliganism before realising its dark truths. Both films perfectly portray the reasons why these young men (and women) end up in violent gangs.
One of the most interesting accounts of the football violence era tells the tale of Cass Pennant, a real-life hooligan from the late 1970s, whose Jamaican heritage made him one of the few black men involved in the football violence scene. In Cass, Nonso Anozie plays the man who became synonymous with the British public for becoming the first person in the UK to be handed a long-term jail sentence under Maggie Thatcher’s strict regime.
"Danny Dyer’s attempted acting in The Football Factory is worthy of the Hammersmith Apollo and provides further evidence that he was always destined to join the Z-listers of Albert Square"
The award for best wardrobe must go to The Firm, which brilliantly, if not slightly over exaggeratedly, represents the, erm, colourful fashion choices of the football ‘casual’ era, where looking fly was almost as important as fighting. Certain critics would argue that football fans don’t really wear such ridiculous outfits, but this was proved wrong in hilarious style when Scotland Yard released images of actors from the film who they mistook for actual sought-after hooligans. In fact, The Firm even inspired yours truly to buy a very bright yellow jacket.
For reasons unknown, the era of the football violence film seems to be drawing to a close. Furthermore, the genre has now been the subject of an admittedly hilarious spoof. The Hooligan Factory deliberately parodies the likes of The Firm and Green Street, ridiculing their story lines and apparent bad acting. Nevertheless, football violence films remain a memorable part of the noughties and we should never forget the day a Hobbit helped beat up some infamously horrible Millwall hooligans.