Oi, oi, that's yer lot!

I figured I'd specialize this week and just cover football hooligan/skinhead movies. I've been listening to a lot of Oi! on the ride to work (not the Nazi stuff - fuck that RAC shit) so I thought this might be a good time to just look at movies about skins 'n' hoolies. The review of Skinheads: The Second Coming of Hate is from memory, because I don't think I ever wrote one back when I watched it and I don't want to take the time to watch it again, but I think I remember enough to tell ya a little about it. The Scums aren't necessarily skin/hoolie flicks, but there's a close enough relation that I decided to include them.

But before we start the aggro, here's a message from Bill Hicks.

American History X - (C, 1998) "Has anything you've done made your life better?" Ed Norton is a neo-Nazi skinhead scumbag who kills a couple of black guys when they try to rob him, which might’ve been okay – hey, they were armed – ‘cept he was pretty sick about the way he did it (nastiest “bite the curb” scene since the underground short film, Red. ) While he’s in jail, he learns that racism is a pretty damned stupid thing, but by the time he gets out, his little brother Eddie “I’m in every movie made since 1990" Furlong is following in his old Doc Marten prints, and the local skinhead scene is thriving. Even though Ed was about as scummy as you can get through the first half, he pays – heavily – for his sins, and comes out sympathetic in the end. Great performance by Ed... you can tell he’s a good actor, because he actually makes a SCARY skinhead, even though normally there are few creatures less scary than Ed Norton. He really should’ve gotten an award for this – he’s great. Good script, good message, check it out even though it’ll make you upset. But then, who really likes “feel good movies” anyway? The DVD contains deleted scenes, one of which – Stacy Keach and the fat guy getting their just deserts – explains a few things but was probably too comedic for the rest of the movie...

Whole movie online starting here (man, that can't be legal):

Firm, The (C, 198 [8)] Nope, this isn't the John Grisham movie, it's one of Alan Clarke's raw, uncompromising exposes of the nastier subsets of British life, like Scum or Made in Britain. In this one, a barely recognizable Gary Oldman struggles to be "top boy" or his gang of soccer hooligans, competing with a couple of other gangs, one led by a guy named Oboe and another led by a blond weirdo named Yeti. Their conflicts are really about nothing (soccer is barely even mentioned) and involve a great deal of senseless violence and destruction (if they're lucky the just end up with a big facial scar or a burned- up car), which brings none of them anything bug misery. But, since it's all stupid to begin with, they have no lesson to learn when things go to far. Pretty powerful and fast moving (it's only 69 minutes long), with Clarke's usual nonjudgemental camera letting you draw your own conclusions (which, given the subject matter, are pretty inescapable anyway.) DVD includes Clarke's Elephant.

Whole movie online starting here:

And there's apparently a remake:

Football Factory (C, 2004) Soccer hooligan flick that seems to borrow style from Trainspotting, Fight Club, and Guy Richie's stuff, but holds its own pretty well, too. A young Chelsea supporter is tempting fate as a sure-to-be-a-major-ruck match with Millwall is coming up, and a psychotic friend named Billy is adding even more chaos to the situation. Tommy's got a one-night-stand's enraged brother after him, and his grandfather is depressed over the death of his best friend, and on top of that Tommy's having nightmares about taking a bad beating and talking with a bandaged-faced dead kid. Plenty of violence and also some funny parts, although not enough to promote this as a comedy, which the DVD case vaguely attempts to do. If you're looking for any insight, you're better off with The Firm or Green Street Hooligans, but if you like watching thick-accented British thugs kicking six shades o' shite out of one another for no particularly good reason, then this will deliver the goods. Us Yanks will have to rely on context for a lot of the slang, which is plentiful and unforgiving to the uninitiated. Subtitles help.

Green Street Hooligans (C, 2005) aka Hooligans, Football Hooligans, Green Street, The Yank. Elijah Wood is kicked out of Harvard two months before graduation due to his roommate's cocaine possession, so he goes to visit his sister in Britain. Due to anger at his roommate, Elijah eagerly falls in with his brother-in-law's brother Pete, who's head of a West Ham "firm" of soccer (or football to everybody but us) hooligans and provides him with a chance to take his frustrations out on rival firms. Even though he's kind of wimpy initially, he's soon fitting in with the thugs and getting in some trouble, especially when they find out his dad is a journalist... and they hate journalists for making them look mugs. Pretty good, even though editing and stupid-camera-tricks take away from the fight scenes a little. Not quite as great as The Firm, but it's a worthy football-hoolie film nonetheless.

Made in Britain (C, 1982) aka Tales Out Of School: Made In Britain. Tim Roth (from Reservior Dogs) is phenomenal as a completely incorrigible British skinhead who's hell bent on self- destruction, no matter how much time social workers waste in trying to help him make something of himself. He's really not interested in anything but being an asshole and causing trouble, and nobody's going to stop him. He steals cars and throws bricks through the windows of Pakistanis, preaches racist bullshit, and absolutely does not care if he's dooming himself to life in prison. There's not a lot of story to it, and seemingly no point... other that the fact that there's no point is the point. It doesn't force any particular viewpoint, but Roth is so believably nasty as the stubborn, violent Trevor that he'll give you the creeps. The truth is, even if Trevor had put any effort into bettering himself, he wasn't likely to get very far in Thatcher's hopeless, limited options Britain. The Exploited's "UK '82" makes a perfect soundtrack. Made in a very straightforward, forceful manner, with a steadicam following the constantly pacing Trevor as he determinedly and ruthlessly paves his path of rage. Lack of plot doesn't weaken this one. Also check out Scum, from the same director.

Whole thing on line starting here:

Rise of the Footsoldier (C, 2007) Badarse Bri'ish crime film based on the true story of Carlton Leach, who progressed from football hooligan to bouncer at a club to mob enforcer to bigtime criminal, all because of his hard-guy talent for violence. Covering a period of years and apparently patterned on a Goodfellas narrative style, this film is high quality filmmaking paired with lots of intense and uncompromising violence. Carlton is a brutal and vicious guy who thrives on fighting and is capable of acts like nailing people's arms and legs to the floor, but he's actually a lot more laid back than a lot of the guys around him, some of whom are psychotic enough to carve people up over a pizza order gone wrong. Carlton's criminal dealings get him in a lot of dangerous situations (such as a near war with the Turkish Mafia), but when some of his friends try to make a huge drug deal they get even worse, shotgunned to hamburger. And they may be luckier than Carlton, who has to live a life under constant threat. Very hard-edged and tough British crime film, with some intense fight scenes (the scene were their subway car pulls up to a crowd of rival supporters weilding hatchets is pretty terrifying). A must for gangster film fanatics, if they can handle it.

Some aggro scenes here.

Romper Stomper (C, 1992) "We came to wreck everything and ruin your life. God sent us." Russell Crowe easily stands out in this largely-plotless saga of Australian Nazi skinheads and their pointless battles with Asian immigrants. They spend all their time attacking Asians, smashing into shops, and sitting around bored, drinking beer and hitting each other while listening to substandard hardcore (one song robs from Condemned 84). Like American Nazi skins, they complain that immigrants are stealing "their" country (forgetting they're not the indigenous race themselves... or maybe they do remember it and that's why they're scared of immigrants!). Their fights with the Asians are brutally violent, and the skins often get their asses kicked unless the odds are strongly in their favor. The skins want to take their country back but can't even hold onto their clubhouse. They also beat up white guys, too, if they're hippies. Crowe, their leader, won't even eat pasta because it's "bloody wop crap." They also don't have much sympathy for epileptics. In an attempt to reclaim their “honor,” they get guns, and one girl helps finance their armory by helping them rob her incestuous father’s house, but they screw around and mess it up. A few of them quit, and cops get some more. Soon they’re robbing convenience stores and killing people, and even the pathetic dregs who are left aren’t unified and are going nowhere. The film is pretty chaotic and cheap-looking and the story isn’t especially brilliant, but there is an undeniable raw power to it. Kind of an updated Clockwork Orange.

Scum (BBC Version) (C, 1977) Made-for-TV juvenile-prison movies get networks in trouble on both sides of the Atlantic. You can perhaps remember the furor raised over Born Innocent over here, and similar hell was raised in Britain over this vicious borstal drama that was eternally banned from broadcast (and promptly remade -- even more brutally -- for a theatrical version by director Alan Clarke). It is tough to watch, especially the rape scene, so I'm kind of amazed the BBC even considered it. A young man named Carlin is sent to juvenile prison for assaulting an officer, and in that prison the only people more cruel and abusive than the guards are the other inmates. Carlin wants to just do his time in peace, but he has a reputation so other prisoners hassle him, and he decides the only way he'll get any peace is to become the "daddy" of the place. Meanwhile, beatings, rapes, suicides, and riots keep happening and the guards could care less. Uncompromising, realistic film from the guy who brought you Made in Britain.

Scum (theatrical version) (C, 1979) When the BBC banned his made-for-TV borstal drama, the incorrigible Alan Clarke retaliated by promptly remaking it for theaters, making it around 15 minutes longer and intensifying just about everything the BBC found so objectionable. So there! It's not radically different from the original, just a wee bit more graphic and with almost total recasting (except for Carlin and maybe a couple of supporting characters), as well as a different directorial approach to nearly every scene; it's interesting that, given it all to do over again, Clarke rejected most of his previous camera angles. Despite the more unrestrained nature of this version, I have a slight preference for the BBC version because that cut is a little mangier-looking, and the lower budget gave it a slight edge in the authenticity department. You really can't go wrong with either version, though, because the story is very strong and it's well-told and -acted in either case. Get the dual-disc set and see 'em both.

Skinheads: The Second Coming of Hate (C, 1989) Silly and stupid attempt at a topical exploitation flick from Greydon Clark, a veteran of several biker flicks. A gang of miserable skinheads hassle Jews in convenience stores, get in fights with Blacks, behave like assholes, and then chase a bunch of white people they don't like into the woods... which turns most of the movie into a skinheads-wandering-through-the-woods flicks, which pretty much removes the entire point of having the movie be about skinheads in the first place. My guess is they had another script that they doctored a few scenes to try to cash in on the fear Geraldo was trying to stir up at the time. Chuck Connors shows up as a guy living in the woods who takes on the skins; watching him mock Hitler makes the movie almost worthwhile. The Skins listen to Elvis Hitler, because I guess the filmmakers didn't want to bother researching any real Nazi punk rock. Elvis Hitler's a much better band that Skrewdriver, anyway, so what the heck.

This Is England (C, 2006) A young British boy named Shaun, whose father was killed in the Falklands war, is getting picked on because of his flared trousers. He's having a really bad day until he meets a group of friendly skinheads, led by a kind-hearted (if slightly criminally-bent) guy named Woody. They remake Shaun in the skinhead image and everything's great until an old mate, Combo, gets out of jail with a head full of stupid nationalistic ideas. The injection of this hate and divisiveness has a highly negative effect on the whole group; Woody and a couple of others are against racism and leave immediately, but Shaun -- possibly looking for a father figure or trying to feel that the Falklands war was worthwhile -- stays with Combo's group even though he doesn't buy into the racism crap. Even Combo struggles with that part of it, but he's weak and the results aren't good for any of them. Highly compelling drama explains a lot of the psychology behind Britain's skinhead culture, acknowledging the faults without condemning (or exploiting) the whole thing. Very well done.

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