The Football Factory(Image Entertainment, 12.27.2005)
From a sociological perspective, the modern man may be in trouble. The metrosexual, a late nineties term used to describe "a sensitive male in touch with his feminine side," pervades modern media and has impacted how we see ourselves and our world. The evolution of the post-feminist modern male continues and some academics consider the modern male to be a watered-down wuss who is too in-touch with his feelings and too urbane. It's ironic that Mark Simpson coined the term in describing David Beckham and the term is ubiquitous with the English born soccer star: Beckham is the uber-metrosexual. In violent opposition to the metro-male, we have the loutish hooligan, fuelled by beer and cocaine, chasing skirt, and picking fights.
The Football Factory is a switched-on portrait of twenty-something middle-class boredom. Tommy is a disinterested blue-collar stiff who lives for the weekend and is the very definition of an English geezer: he drinks, snorts, screws, thieves, and brawls. After a tough work week, Tommy heads out to the pub for some drinks. He says, "The next best thing to violence is sex and, since there are 500,000 single women in London, I must be in with half especially since I'd [screw] anything that's breathing."
After a night of cavorting and carousing, Tommy wakes in a strange girl's bed with a rival geezer's knife on his throat. A good crack with a cricket bat frees Tommy from his clutches, but places him on every enemy hitlist in London. While avoiding a thrashing, Tommy must come to terms with his dreams of "a little place with a wife and kids" and the misdirection, malaise and ultra-violence of his lifestyle.
In The Football Factory, director Nick Love tackles John King's cult novel of the same name. Teaming up with Rockstar Games for marketing and promotion, the film shows a frightening parallel to Grand Theft Auto, where violence and horror pervert society's boundaries for acceptable behaviour. The DVD includes an audio commentary from Love and lead actor Danny Dyer, a "making-of" featurette, production design concepts, TV spots, trailers, and deleted scenes.
It is difficult to really place The Football Factory within the context of modern pop culture. The media, which so vehemently condemns hooliganism, are the same ones who review this film as a glorification of violence and antisocial behaviour. They condemn Love as trying to do to geezers what Trainspotting did for junkies.
It's easy to hate the bigoted, hate-filled, shaved-headed characters of this film and the documentary style lends an uncomfortable earnestness and immediacy to the proceedings. The viewer is horrified by the mentality of public stompings as a badge of honour, but recognizes that one only need look around to see the disenchantment that percolates within the concrete jungled middle-class.
Love creates a film that not only sickens its viewer with the twisted moral code of it's characters, but makes the viewer cower in self-reflection at just how close to the surface these out-of-control tendencies are within us. Fight Club portrayed the sick of the modern male who was willing to do something to fix it, but The Football Factory portrays a much more sinister vision: modern male as frustrated, angry, and willing to stand up to the voices telling him to be more feminine, but only willing to revert to a time of testosterone-laced domination.
While intensely violent and disturbing, one does feel somewhat empathetic towards the unlikeable characters. Tommy's grandfather is revered in the film as an old school hero: "he was one of the first on the beaches on June 6th." Tommy looks at his granddad with envy as a man who fought for his country in a way that the modern man never can. He fought against a real enemy in a real time of need. Tommy yearns for something so meaningful in his life.
As the true voice of reason in the film, Tommy's grandfather understands the error of the hooligan's perversion of morality: "They are foolish men. Harris thinks we're connected because I fought in the war, but what he doesn't understand is that I fought against people like him with his fascist opinions." One hopes that the Tommys who watch the film grasp this message rather than reveling in the street fights, drugs, and clever one-liners.
It is hard not to see Tommy as an evil man with twisted evil morals but, at the same time, it's hard not to understand his reactions. The malaise of modern man is that he doesn't know who he is anymore. He isn't like his father and he isn't like his grandfather. Modern man is truly alone in a world that doesn't allow him to be himself. The Football Factory is a portrait of men who have no hope in modern society and who are completely out of ideas on how to solve the problem. -- Mark Devitt