Director: Lexi Alexander
The world of football hooliganism is not some secluded, cartoonish mini-realm; rather, itís our world as well. Soccer thugs live among us, drink in our pubs and fight on our streets. The most chilling moments in Green Street are when this point is forced home: the hardened gang leader who we learn is a primary school teacher, or the diner whose head is smashed into a table because his girlfriend is chatting a little too loudly.
Yet however brutal Green Street is - and the violence is graphically and sickeningly realistic - its greater aim is to chill and to terrify. Witness an early scene where Matt (Elijah Wood), an expelled Harvard journalism student whoís barely raised a fist in anger in his life, first comes into contact with the Green Street Elite. Itís a scene dripping in implication and menace; the terrifying uncertainty of being amongst men who are capable of absolutely anything. This is a credit to director Lexi Alexander, who consistently forgoes gratuity in favour of characterisation and gives the thugs human depth and purpose, even if the cast sometimes falls short of what is demanded of them.
The exception, however, is Elijah Wood. His extraordinary smouldering eyes convey an opaqueness and yearning that is required of every leading man. Itís Wood who holds this film together, just as his character straddles civilisation and barbarity yet ultimately finds security in neither. Green Street is essentially a battle of one manís inner demons.
Itís by no means the first film to romanticise the honour and fraternity of the criminal gang; nor is it the first to explore violence as a form of liberation. In addition, the climactic mass brawl, complete with slow motion and a stirring soundtrack, is a tad excessive.
But the greater sentiment is unmistakeable, sincere, never
throwaway, the depiction of football hooliganism thoughtful and measured, and
itís these assets which make Green Street such a compelling piece of
cinema. As a study of masculinity, itís impressive; as a slice of chilling,
intelligent entertainment, itís without parallel.
By Jonathan Liew
Back to 2005 articles index