LOOSELY adapted from Alan Clarke’s seminal 1989 TV drama, this is a brutal and unflinching portrait of hooliganism and male bonding, set to a funky soundtrack of The Gap Band, The Jam, Kool & The Gang, Donna Summer and Tears For Fears.
Writer-director Nick Love opens with Soft Cell’s infectious, toe-tapping hit Tainted Love and a blaze of searing neon as we’re transported back to 1980s London, a mecca of wannabes who need to own the latest tracksuits and trainers to fit in.
Clarke’s version concentrated on the gangs but this takes a different tack, trying to draw in a younger audience (even with the deserved 18 certificate) by viewing events through the eyes of a disenfranchised teenager, seduced by this dangerous world but not knowing how to get out again.
Dom (Calum McNab) and his best mate Terry live on a London housing estate. On a night out, they foolishly pick a fight with estate agent Bex and his wife, unaware they’re butting heads with the leaders of one of the most feared groups of football fans in the city.
Realising their error, they later beg forgiveness and Dom is gradually inducted into Bex’s inner circle, idolising the hard-man who warns that arch-rival Yeti and his mob will “open you up like a fete!”.
Dom’s initiation is complete when he dares to stand up to Bex’s lieutenant Trigger. But, while Bex thrives on thuggery, he is horrified by the violence and he cannot break free.
The Firm orchestrates some genuinely terrifying rucks, but the script doesn’t flesh out the characters in nearly enough detail.
What we get is another pummelling from a film-maker who trampled through similar territory in his 2004 film The Football Factory, which saw McNab make his movie debut in a supporting role.