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The Football Factory
Nick Love's adaptation of John King's novel is considered long overdue. "The Football Factory" is a cult classic about a 'firm' of Chelsea fans that live for their weekends filled with beer, drugs, casual sex, and violence. Unfortunately, the film fails to live up to the book, instead it flits between comedy and gritty realism all the time making generous nods to "Human Traffic" and "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels", never able to decide whether it's pure entertainment or serious drama.

The film centres around Tom Johnson who, dressed in Stone Island and Burberry, is looking for excitement to lift him from the tedium of his everyday existence. Tom finds this in the pubs and clubs with his best mate Rod and the women they chase. They also find it around the football grounds in London and beyond, where with the help of mobile phones and juvenile scouts they dodge OB (Old Bill) and ambush rival firms. A chance encounter with a member of the rival Millwall firm sets Tom on a downward spiral which accelerates when Chelsea are drawn away at Millwall in the FA Cup.

Tom's friendships with Rob and the rest of the 'firm' are offset by his close bond with his war veteran granddad. Bill Farrell is the one oasis of sanity, common sense and decency in the film, his love for Tom is real and his advice heartfelt. However, his influence on Tom is far outweighed by the demands of Tom's peer group. The fact that questions asked explicitly by his granddad and implicitly by Tom's experiences are never answered and often ignored completely is one of the film's flaws. The situation becomes worse for Tom as his fears about his future are manifested in a series of nightmarish premonitions.

"The Football Factory" is not short on action. The fight scenes do give a startlingly accurate portrayal of football violence and the men who perpetrate it. Fact and fiction are as skilfully blended as the faces of the actors and real hooligans who make up the numbers. There are several moments that will revive bad memories for many football fans, be they willing participants or otherwise. The climactic scene is brilliantly shot, the adrenalin almost flowing through the screen as the two firms battle it out with each other and the police.

Although Nick Love has great ability to make the audience laugh, it often felt misplaced in a film with such brutality at its core. Its characters are stuck in a never ending cycle of violence, passed down through families and generations, and the film's lighter moments seemed to trivialise this. "The Football Factory" is set to a fast pace and a brilliant soundtrack. However, just as Tom fails to answer the questions asked of him, so the film fails to answer any questions regarding what drives the characters beyond boredom, which is a shame as such themes were at the heart of King's novel and were simply glossed over throughout.

MARK: 6/10

Tim Evershed