A football hooliganism movie without any actual football?
Isn’t that like a romcom without Sandra Bullock?
Sure, it may sound weird and – to fervent fans of the genre – downright suicidal, but then Nick Love is pretty much deified when it comes to football movies, so surely we should just shut up and trust him.
To be fair, it’s a misnomer to refer to The Firm as a football movie. While there are references to rival teams and the instigating reason for all the violence is technically football, Love has managed to throw a fresh, surprisingly personal spin on the tried and tested thug formula by failing to include a football match, any kits or insignia.
Loosely based on the 1988 television movie of the same name, Love has repurposed the plot through the eyes of young wannabe football casual, Dom. Bored with a life that consists of nothing more than “breakdancing and fingering his best mate’s little sister,” a chance encounter with the leader and scourge of the casual scene (read: fashion conscious hooligans) Bex, kickstarts a hero-worship infatuation that spirals out of control and into the damning, violent inner workings of The Firm.
Whereas the original was a grim, gritty affair and unsettling in its score-absent soundtrack, The Firm wears its dayglo, pop-80s heart on its perfectly ironed Ellese tracksuit sleeve. The opening introduction pulses off the screen, with Tainted Love blaring as the cheerily menacing Bex strides his way through sunny council estates on his way to the pub meet.
Bex’s delusions of aggro grandeur start out as nothing more than blustery talk – three of the big four clashes in the film are little more than playground scuffles – but before long his self-destructive streak spirals out of control and the PG-rated charm of The Firm’s boys’ club is exposed for what it truly is.
By focusing on the cuddly brotherly love inherent within a fundamentally primal tribalism, it’s safe to say that The Firm is unlike any football movie you’ve seen before and far less arresting with it.
It suffers from the lack of a clearly defined point and doesn’t really stimulate or excite like others in the genre, but when it comes to 80s-based coming of age stories, the captivating relationship between Dom and Bex can hold its head high with the best of them.