"They love me for what I'm not... ...they hate me for what I am."
Running Time: 98 minutes
US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15
Country: United Kingdom
It was only a matter of time before David Peace’s best-selling book got the big screen treatment and showed the world the football coach who gave us priceless quotes like “I wouldn’t say I was the best manager in the country. But I’m in the top one”. Tom Hooper brings us the film adaptation of the book that was deemed impossible to adapt.
This biopic – made with lashings of artistic license – charts the forty-four day reign of Brian Clough as the manager of Leeds United. It’s the 1970s and Leeds are the champions of England and Brian Clough is one of the most respected coaches in the league but this apparent match made in heaven is spoiled by Clough’s almost irrational hatred of a Leeds side he perceives to be a team of cheats. The film is roughly split into two strands as we see flashbacks of Clough’s meteoric rise with his loyal assistant, Peter Taylor (Spall), at Derby County, alongside his dark, short-lived time at Leeds as it hurtles towards disaster.
The action of The Damned United focuses on changing relationships and the fascinating characters involved rather than attempting to provide the first ever authentic scenes of a footballing nature. The backstory and the later events fit together perfectly with a seemless continuity and the narrative is mostly engaging. Michael Sheen shows once again, after his portrayal of David Frost and Tony Blair that he is a chameleon as he nails Brian Clough in appearance, accent and mannerisms. Â The relationships between the characters is nicely poised so the Clough and Taylor bromanceÂ and the seething, almost one-sided hatred aimed at a bemused Don Revie (Meaney) nicely complement each other.
The Damned United falls down when you compare the film to the deliciously dark book and the real life events. The film is a little too lighthearted and feelgood as the tone is kept very jovial throughout. Gone is the seething, angry Clough who swears with every second word and is never without a whiskey and he is replaced with a more happy-go-lucky, two dimensional version. Not a bad sports movie but a bit of a missed opportunity.
It's Got: Great performances from Sheen and the supporting cast, a interesting story to follow, a welcome emphasis more on the people than the sporting action
It Needs: The darker tone of the book, less of the manlove towards the end
DVD Extras A great little package for the football aficionado - there are four featurettes including one focusing on'Remembering Brian', Michael Sheen's preparation for the role, Seventies football and the making of' TDU, a Director's commentary, the very witty Cloughisms (Clough's classic quotes) and deleted scenes. DVD Extras Rating: 9/10
Would have been one of the better football dramas (facing stiff competition from practically none) had it not been based on a vastly superior book. This football love-in really needs a darker edge to make it more The Wrestler than Escape to Victory.