The Football Factory is the story of a bunch of losers, who do loser-type things like drink hard, use hard drugs, and beat each other up for fun. Where is the appeal?
It’s not as if England has an image problem, is it? Saddled with being a declining empire, and recently with being one of the only countries in the world to support George Bush’s invasion of Iraq (along with my own), they could do with some good press. Years of images of football violence across Europe have taken their toll, and hard measures have been introduced to try to combat the hooligans. But, here is a film that embraces them.
The Football Factory is a bit of a mess. Telling the story of Tommy Johnson, a mid-level member of the Chelsea ‘firm’, who likes nothing better than to beat up their arch rivals, Milwall, we spend much of this film thinking he may be getting tired of the lifestyle. We are shown things through his eyes, in a half-hearted attempt to glorify this world. He loves his mates, he loves beating heads with them. And he thinks we should too.
The firms’ use of local children, encouraging them to grow up just like their head-kicking heroes, shows a disgraceful part of this culture. These people are supposed to be grown men, and yet they’re encouraging kids to aim low, hoping they become the next generation. It’s almost as if these people need reassurance, and they seek it from kids on pushbikes, whose idolisation gives them the strength to keep living this horrible life.
With a grainy, gloomy shooting style, lots of hand-held camera, and straightforward narration, The Football Factory is going for a close-up and realistic view. We see the blood, feel the punches – this is one of this film’s only strengths. With multiple ‘flash-forwards’ and dodgy dream sequences, however, this film throws away its best feature. Why would you do that? What went through the director’s mind when he chose this route?
The final act belies all that went before it – Tommy’s questions about life, the universe and everything swallowed up in an adrenaline rush of flagellation, his hard-earned notoriety emboldening him to continue his reckless path.
The attempt at style is really the only thing good about this film, and it is discarded too quickly. A barren culture exposed, it is an indictment on England and football culture, that although it makes its point, fails to entertain.Rating: