Green Street Hooligans: A Monument to Violence

31 Mar

You can add this to the list of awesome movies that you’ve never . Green Street Hooligans stars Elijah Wood as a wrongfully expelled Harvard journalism student who finds refuge in the brutally violent brotherhood of English Football hooligans.

The Green Street Elite (GSE) are the firm of the West Ham United, they are kind of a roaming gang of ultra-fans who are not only zealots of the sport, but of their reputation amongst the community of fans.  Matt Buckner (Elijah Wood) falls into this world after being unjustly expelled from Harvard for his roommate’s coke habit. Buckner grabs $10,000 in drug cash from his roommate’s desk and heads across the pond to see his sister and her husband Steve (Marc Warren- Band of Brothers), who just had a baby.

Matt isn’t in town long before he’s introduced to Steve’s younger brother Pete (Charlie Hunnam), the leader of the GSE. Pete takes a shine to Matt and introduces him to the life of a firm member, which is like being a gangster with a regular job. It’s kind of a part time, voluntary paramilitary organization. The GSE goes to the West Ham matches and gives a new meaning to the term “obnoxious fan” and then afterward they have a brawl with the opposition’s firm. All for bragging rights.

The film is a monument to violence. It’s bloody and brutal and completely honest. Not that I’ve ever been in a street fight amongst soccer hooligans, but there is a feel of realism that gives the whole movie gravity in an otherwise unrecognizable world.

It’s a mixture of The Boondock Saints and Fight Club, but with the added benefit of being a fictional look at a real world.  The Green Street Hooligans is mostly about the culture of hooliganism. Matt’s descent into the GSE tells the story of the alure, a fraternity built in the back alley’s of London.  “I’d never lived closer to danger — never felt more confident.” Matt says after his establishment into the GSE. But as the story progresses a wider scope examines the personal effect that pure testosterone driven violence has on the gang members and their families.

It’s a well intentioned film that never got a wide release due to two rather significant failings. The first is that Elijah Wood is more a hobbit than a hooligan. The man just can’t make you believe he’s a violent hooligan.  I mean carry a ring of ultimate power to Mount Doom, check. Beat the living crap out of a guy twice his size with a brink. No.

The Second is something that most American’s will never know or care about, and that’s the accent of Charlie Hunnam.  The BBC review said Hunnam “sport (ed) the worst Cock-er-nee accent since Dick Van Dyke’s in Mary Poppins.”  These two failings have led to critics panning the film as “calamitous”, among other less than positive adjectives.

Other than those two specific criticisms there are a few moments of very weak dialogue and some less than stellar acting. But for my money this is a film that you’ll enjoy. It’s a look into a world that most Americans have little to no understanding or familiarity with, and that makes it an enjoyable trip down a very very violent rabbit hole.

Directed and Written by
Lexi Alexander. Starring: Elijah Wood, Charlie Hunnam, Claire Forlani, Leo Gregory, Marc Warren.  Runtime: 109 minutes.


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