The Firm

The Firm


Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

Before Nick Love remade it in his own distinctive “I’ll ‘ave ya, ya fackin cahnt!” style, The Firm was a seminal TV movie made by Alan Clarke.

Though by day he’s a respectable estate agent, by night Bex Bissell (GaryOldman) is the leader of a gang of football hooligans. Wanting to take a united English firm into Munich for the 1988 Euro Championships, Bex proposes himself as a leader, but when his two rivals refuse to comply each group begins fighting for supremacy.

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Unlike Love's remake, the original focuses largely on its psychopathic lead and essentially eschews his relationship with the bunch’s latest addition.

While it is a searing indictment of Eighties Thatcherite mentality, Clark’s last movie (he sadly died following its release – like previous efforts Scum and Made In Britain became a controversy- magnet due to its ingredients: football, hooliganism, violence… and that’s before you consider Gary Oldman’s ‘tache.

Though starting off relatively subdued, as we progress, so too does the violence. There are a few moments memorable for their brutality (facial scarring, a kiddie switchblade incident), but what’s commendable is the lack of football. No wait, hear this out. Clarke was himself a fan of the beautiful game, and he demonstrates what all the thugs out there should learn - football and fighting shouldn’t go hand in hand.

Of course, it’s essentially the Gary Oldman show. The young actor gives a stunning, tour-de-force performance that straddles multiple aspects of the same person. Shot mostly with tracking steadicam, this gives Oldman the chance to showcase each facet - from suited respectable citizen to ferocious out-of-control animal, from well-to-do family man to ambitious would-be-leader, he nails them all. Additionally, the supporting cast is made up of familiar faces; Mickey Pierce from Only Fools and Horses, Jim McDonald from Corrie (sporting the worst Cockney accent ever) and – wait for it – Phil Mitchell.

Raw, violent and controversial, Alan Clarke’s film has plenty of kick.

Reviewed on: 09 Mar 2010
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The Firm packshot
Rivalry brews between hooligan 'firms' in the run up to the European Cup Finals.
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Director: Alan Clarke

Writer: Al Ashton

Starring: Gary Oldman, Lesley Manville, Philip Davis, Andrew Wilde, Charles Lawson, William Vanderpuye, Jay Simpson, Patrick Murray, Robbie Gee, Terry Sue Patt, Nick Dunning, Nicholas Hewetson, Steve McFadden, Steve Sweeney, Hepburn Graham

Year: 1988

Runtime: 70 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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