The life of the football hooligan is a strange one, at least from the other side of the fence. It's often fueled by alcohol, drug abuse, a thirst for violence---and occasionally, there's even a bit of football (AKA "soccer") thrown in for good measure. Often, though, it's the first three that really keep the motor running; whether they're fighting with cops or rival gangs (or "firms", as they're commonly known), hooligans keep fairly busy with their raucous routine. If you don't share this particular mindset, though, their actions make about as much sense as trashing your hometown after your local team wins a national title. Call me crazy, but I just can't wrap my brain around that kind of behavior.
In the world of The Football Factory (2004), director Nick Love's adaptation of John King's best-selling novel, rowdiness is very much the norm. Told in the loose, freewheeling style of Snatch and Trainspotting, The Football Factory is a busy, talkative affair with ultimately little to say. It doesn't present the hooligan lifestyle as glamorous, yet this faux-documentary almost crumbles under its own weight due to the closed-minded, blunt depiction of mob mentality. These "men" don't really know why they act the way they do. Apparently, neither should we.
But just who are they? There's Tommy Johnson (played by Danny Dyer), a misogynic office zombie with a black-and-white outlook on life; his best friend Rod (Neil Maskell), who's barely torn between a "regular life" and the firm; Billy Bright (Frank Harper), a near carbon copy of most any Joe Pesci character; and Albert Moss (John Junkin), who's one of the only borderline likeable characters in the bunch. There's more, of course, but many of the supporting characters aren't much more than faces in the crowd. The film's excessive narration is provided by Tommy himself, though it's so similar in tone to the previously mentioned Snatch that you'll swear The Football Factory was its second cousin, twice removed. Produced in part by Rockstar Games, the guilty parties behind the immensely popular Grand Theft Auto video game series, it's a bit like GTA come to life, warts and all. Scary, isn't it?
When viewed as a whole, more or less, Love's film plays out like Fight Club without all that pesky social satire. What it does have working in its favor, though, is a visually stunning style and a strong sense of urgency: the bleak but colorful world depicted here, as vile and dirty as it is, really bursts with energy---yet more casual viewers may wonder it the energy is focused in the wrong places. All things considered, the raw darkness is enough to hold the attention of more adventurous viewers; though I wasn't really able to get behind the story at hand, it was told with enough style to keep things fairly entertaining. Unfortunately, The Football Factory doesn't seem like it'll offer much more after repeat viewings, but those that enjoyed it the first time around may feel differently.
The DVD presentation by Image Entertainment is slightly flawed but still serviceable, offering a decent technical presentation and a nice mix of bonus features. Even so, the film is the main selling point: it's not a date movie or for the faint of heart, so those who might be casually interested in The Football Factory should still proceed with caution. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality:
The dark, stylish atmosphere of The Football Factory looks good on DVD, though it could've used some fine tuning. Contrast, colors and back levels remained solid throughout, but this 2:35 anamorphic widescreen PAL transfer (originally shot on digital video) suffers from mild ghosting and blurring---especially during scenes of action, which accounts for 90% of the film. This won't be as noticeable for those without anamorphic displays, but it's still a problem that could've been easily avoided.
The audio presentation is slightly better but still not quite perfect. Viewers are given a choice of English 5.1, DTS and 2.0 Surround tracks for any size setup---and they sound very good, though the mixing could've been tighter. The film's music and effects often overpower the dialogue, but everything comes through clean and clear with plenty of atmosphere. Optional English subtitles have been included for the main feature, which come in handy if you're not up on thick accents.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging:
Highlighted by the same stylish design as the film itself, the overall presentation for The Football Factory is slick but practical. This 97-minute film has been divided into 16 chapters, while a layer change is present just after the 60-minute mark. The one-disc release is packaged in a standard black Amaray keepcase with no inserts, though the final packaging may vary slightly.
There's a nice selection of extras included here---they're not entirely new or groundbreaking, but fans of the film will want to check 'em out. First up is a feature-length Audio Commentary with director Nick Love and star Danny Dyer; it's a very casual track that favors loose conversation over film dissection, which certainly isn't a problem in this case. Next up is a Behind-the-Scenes Documentary (33 minutes) that feels a bit padded but still offers a few nice glimpses of the film's set and production. There's also a series of nine Deleted Scenes which don't add a great deal, as well as a generous helping of Trailers & TV Spots. Bringing up the rear are approximately six brief Featurettes, including general cast and crew pieces, a look at the film's props and a few production-related slide shows. Overall, it's a solid assortment of bonus content that complements the main feature well.
It's certainly not for everyone, but the rough and rowdy world of The Football Factory might be worth a look for fans of aggressive and fast-paced films. I couldn't get past the paper-thin moral codes of the main characters---although one could argue that might be the whole point----but we've still seen this type of story crafted with more originality and heart many times before. Luckily, the strength of Image's DVD presentation helps pull this release out of the water: although neither the technical presentation or the bonus features are truly excellent, the total package is just enough to consider The Football Factory a possible candidate for weekend entertainment. Rent It.
Randy Miller III is an art instructor and office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in an art gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, general debauchery, and writing things in third person.