God bless Exploitation, for without whom we never would have ended up with the likes of Hooligans & Thugs: Soccer's Most Violent Fan Fights.
History of Soccer this is not, but neither is this the cacophonic ballet of violence that perhaps most might expect from a DVD entitled Hooligans & Thugs: Soccer's Most Violent Fan Fights. Don't get me wrong, the film is chock full of kicks, punches, smashes, head butts, clubbings, throwing of debris, gratuitous chops to the groin, racist threats and rants, vandalism, terror, canings, flag burnings, mindless mayhem, tear gas, mob violence, bloodletting, police brutality, pyromania, crushing deaths, and Neo-Nazism. Yes, a resplendent disc for the young sports enthusiast in your household!
No, there's violence and depravity aplenty, but strangely enough the documentary seems to pull its punches a bit. The film consists entirely of video clips from several soccer matches throughout Europe in the 1980s and 90s, but its constant repetition of destructive images quickly grows tiresome. The film is quickly chopped and edited, set to an annoying pseudo-electronica soundtrack that gives the film a ho-hum, "Girls Gone Wild on PCP" feel. There are only so many times you can see someone's head get smashed into a brick wall or someone dancing the Mexican Hat Dance on someone else's testicles until the entire affair becomes more of the same. Before you can really begin to appreciate the depravity and violence presented before you, another scene quickly replaces it.
So sure, Hooligans & Thugs: Soccer's Most Violent Fan Fights is pretty disturbing at times, but it's not disturbing enough. Violence in any form is disturbing by nature. Violence for the sake of team rivalries is just incredibly stupid. The film makes a half-hearted attempt to discern the reason behind these brutal flare-ups, but barely gives any attempt for reasonable exploration and discussion. This film is all about the clips, and it doesn't shirk its duty in that regard. We know why sports-fans beat the crap out of each other: because they can. It is embedded in the Y-chromosome. That's the other guy, he's on the other side, and look! He talks funny too and hey, he might even be brown. Crush him!
You don't have to watch the opening ten minutes of 2001: A Space Odyssey to know that the love of beating the snot out of the other guy, especially when armed with a big sharp stick that makes a luscious-sounding thud when implemented, is imprinted upon our genetic memory.
So Hooligans & Thugs: Soccer's Most Violent Fan Fights doesn't really explain anything, or provide any reasons why soccer fans routinely smash the hell out of each other. In retrospect, I suppose it doesn't really need to. So once it abandons its pretensions and brings on the violent clips, the movie is fulfilling what it set out to do. If you're into this sort of thing, Hooligans & Thugs: Soccer's Most Violent Fan Fights is right up your alley.
Other than a few taped bits featuring legendary Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones (providing some rather annnoying narration), this movie consists entirely of videotaped clips shot over
the course of the last twenty years. They all vary in quality, as well they
should; they come from a variety of video sources, from the decent to the near
unwatchable. That having been said, the DVD produces a pretty good
representation of the source material.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. The
majority of the presentation features that annoying electronica soundtrack and
the narrator's psuedo-pithy commentary. The soundtrack sounds pretty robust,
with some active LFE boom and clear, bright dialog levels.
There are no extras on this disc.
I can't imagine there being a huge audience for this
disc, save for hardcore soccer enthusiasts and macabre "Ultimate Fighting"
junkies who need a break from "Backyard Wrestling" or "Bum Fight" videos.
Hooligans & Thugs: Soccer's Most Violent Fan Fights has
about as much depth as a Slip-N-Slide, but one cannot deny the sheer visceral
intensity of the scenes presented in this film. There's not much in terms of
extra material, and the program barely lasts an hour. If the subject matter
appears to be your speed, I would give this DVD a rental first.