So, I'm big into my films and enjoy the odd guilty pleasure, so it was always inevitable I'd give the new Nick Love version of the 'classic' Firm a viewing. Note: if you're off to watch this and don't want it spoiling, then do be careful there are a few spoilers, if you are also put off by comparisons to the original, then don't read this.
I was a bit *pull's Joey Deacon face* when I first heard this was being re-made, didn't think it was necessary really, I like the original, it's a bit of a cult now, yeah the crews are all about eight or nine handed and there's not much in the way of any known labels on show, but look at that era through old snaps and footage, it's not too far away, chinos and blazers were being worn, remember this was way past dressing up and label fascination - a world away from the colourful sportswear era of the new version. Anyway, the two vital ingredients of the original were it's Director - the late Alan Clarke and Gary Oldman, Clarke one of our best Director's, responsible for Rita, Sue and Bob Too, the thought provoking Made in Britain and of course Scum. Gary Oldman who was about to embark on an illustrious Hollywood career by the time he'd leathered his pillow at his Mam's gaff. Loads out there slate the original, but for it's tame violence and corny action, there's some memorable one liners and stand out moments. I'd imagine most younger film goers would hate this and prefer their hooligans with a touch of the Danny Dyer about them.
Fast forward 21 years and it's time for a re-telling of this story, quite appropriate in the current climate, Long Good Friday and Mona Lisa are on the way too. This time we go back four years, it's the heyday of the sportswear era, and Bex and his crew are a little younger, Under Fives in fact.
The central character in this story is Dom, also seen in the original. This is his rites of passage, an intrigued trip into the unknown, with thrills and spills eventually wanting to get out as quickly as he got in, a similar story, most who've ever got a bit grub under their nails at the football could probably relate to. In fact more or less the same tale as the Awaydays film some of us saw this summer, but with a lot less laa's and a lot more 'dry lunches'.
The main story plays out very similarly to the original, oops here we go again with the comparisons.
There's hints of a European crusade on the horizon, not sure which factually if you want to be a bit pedantic. Maybe it was France 84, but we failed to make it to that one. The Brum mob have been replaced with Pompey who make up this super firm à trois. But it's the main rivalry between Bex, portrayed by Paul Anderson (TV mainly Casualty but not the Bill) and The Yeti played by the usually good value Daniel Mays (All or Nothing, Shifty) all centering around Dom (Calum McNab) and his foray into Firm life. The film is a nostalgic look back at the heyday of sports casual, I personally always preferred the dress down look, but most out there will reminisce about the trainers and tracksuits with a bit of a chub on no doubt, I think the influence of the labels involved has probably helped get this film into production, Fila almost certainly.
Now I was only in primary school in 1984 and had more interest in the Return of The Jedi than I did Fila and Tacchini, but I dare say I doubt many went out on a Saturday in full tracksuits?
The film looked good, very authentic at times, perhaps too much gear on show, in fact not perhaps, there was, for every tracky top and deerstalker hat (not a good look) there would have been loads of no brand jumpers and shit Lord Anthony leftovers, not everyone was that dressed up in real life, that's a given but this is film world. The violence was more on the thin side than expected, the large scale rows of the Football Factory with the crash, bang wallops had been replaced with more authentic looking long shaky shots, more true to life. The main cast were all pretty watchable too, especially the new Bex in his first major role, and Dom's father (Eddie Webber) who's normally a bit of a rent-a-cockney but to be fair was good value.
The story followed a similar trail to the original, there were parts taken directly, so I was kind of knowing what was coming next even though it actually didn't in the end, which threw me a little.
I've always though Nick Love's films were a little cliched, this was probably the most polished work to date, unlike The Football Factories' over the top violence and slight glamorisation, this was certainly more provoking, whilst the hooliganism can be 'fun', there's a dark underside to it, and shady characters do often occur, some asking too much of you when it all goes a bit tit's up, whilst the majority see it all as a bit of fun, or a bubble perhaps, there's those that want to take it too far, right to the very end in fact, the odd patois was still there, a northerner like myself has to imagine what they're saying half the time, I'm still none the wiser about sloshbots and canisters. Never mind dry lunches and melts, people just call each other knobs and bellends up here.
My only real gripe with this was the lingo at times not so that I didn't get it, more it was too overused, I think the derogatory term 'melt' was used about one hundred and twenty seven times in the first five minutes! Then the gag about a red full Terrinda tracksuit looking like a post box was wearing thin the second time it was used, so to end the film on that note, that gag for the third time was a little tiresome in my humble.
All in all this is what I expected, probably the biggest production on the whole scene anyway, and it was alright on the whole, the sportswear fans will no doubt love it, and there'll be young trying to act all 'firm' and old trying to relive their youth at a football ground near you soon no doubt.
Three stars from five.