1 November 2009 | Quinoa1984
mostly a lean and tough action-drama with intense characters and melodrama
Green Street Hooligans (or just Hooligans for short) is a feature that announces a new female director, Lexi Alexander. Like Kathryn Bigelow, she's not a director of romantic comedies or (I hate to use this term but I will) chick-flicks, but someone who understands how to get the same kind of grit and testosterone that any gifted male action director could get from his cast of actors. In this case Alexander's tough skin is fitting: her subject matter are 'soccer hooligans', or more specifically those who form in gangs in pubs and fight out in the streets with other gangs representing respective teams. It's a whole system that is far more aggressive (and 'pissed' aka drunk) than a typical group of sports fans like one would find in the States, but it's not quite as ruthless as a gang like crips and bloods either.
The Hooligans of the GSE fight and act like a gang for status, not for profit, and this is the way of things when Matt (Elijah Wood), a Harvard dropout, lands in England and somehow befriends his brother in law's brother Pete (Charles Hunnam). He's taken along to the pub, then to a football/soccer match, and then proves his worth the best way he can: he gets in his first real fight-cum-brawl in the streets with some other soccer hooligans. From then in the film becomes a story of friendship and eventual betrayal from a scorned member of the GSE, who doesn't like Mike from the start and feels taken aback by his best friend Pete's connection to a practical family member.
It's also about the way that the male brain works in such situations: Matt is a very smart guy, being from Harvard and all (and sort of hiding a secret as a journalist major - a big no-no in hooligan gangs, being a "Journie" as its called), but he can go into this violent state of being because it's part of a clique, and part of being part of a group where everyone looks out for everyone else - which he doesn't get from his sister (Forlani) or his absentee father. Alexander works best with her cast of characters and actors when they're in the pub and out on the streets, with the camaraderie so easy to just turn on a dime - the intensity is thick always, even in one of those big sing-alongs like with the GSE's "theme song" out in the streets. It also helps that Wood is better than usual and Brit character actors like Hunnam and Geoff Bell impress very much, very much in the mold of a gangster movie (a good one).
The only big drawbacks are some unneeded exposition with the narration popping up a few times. Once is too often really, as it doesn't add anything aside from the "I learned this and blah blah" material. And the final brawl, which shot well, is saddled with a cringe-worthy song that kills the energy and features so much melodrama (and an understandably tragic conclusion) that it's just too much. But in general, this is a fine and hard-knocking 'Cockney' flick- watch for that slang- and great if you've never heard of a soccer hooligan and want to take a look. 7.5/10