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The Football Factory (2004)

What else you gonna do on a Saturday?

Directed by:

Nick Love

Rating: 3/10

Running Time: 93 minutes

UK Certificate: 18

Country: United Kingdom

Let the title fool you at your peril – ‘The Football Factory’ is a film that has absolutely nothing to do with football. You won’t see a blade of grass, a ball, or a set of goals anywhere within its 93 minutes. Neither, for that matter, will you see a waving scarf, a steaming hot cup of Bovril, or the inside of a stadium – so you couldn’t even accurately describe it as a film about football supporters.

No, ‘The Football Factory’ is about one thing and one thing only: hooligans. Sure, they’re hooligans who attach themselves to one English football club or another (in this case Chelsea). But, if they’re also football supporters, it’s certainly not something writer-director Nick Love has any interest in. After all, at no point in the film is football even spoken about. Okay, so there’s a bit where one of our main hoolies (Frank Harper) is glued to the live TV coverage of the draw for the next round of the FA Cup – but even that turns out to be only so he can mark into his diary whose face he’s going to be kicking the snot out of next.

Adapted from the novel by Nick Love (just one of countless pieces of football thug-friendly literature to have sprung up over the past few years), we’re taken through a couple of weeks in the life of Tommy (Danny Dyer). He’s a fully paid-up member of a Chelsea “Firm”, and justifies his way of life by rambling on about the importance of “making a difference.” Exactly what he’s making a difference to, other than the queue at his local casualty, is never quite explained. Nonetheless, he’s part of a lower-middle-class sub-culture that makes him feel both big AND clever – until a couple of scary dreams cause him to vaguely question the worth of it all, that is.

You’ve got to hand it to Love – he’s assembled a convincing band of Guy Ritchie cast-off types, and his scenes of inner-city street warfare are frighteningly realistic. But there’s no discernable plotline, no form of redemption for any of our characters, and nobody for the right-thinking viewer to side with. Yup, there’s a moral lesson thrown in for our lead protagonist, but it never looks like it’s been included as anything more than a minor afterthought in an extremely weak effort to justify the film’s existence. Without a shadow of a doubt, this is a film that revels in its subject matter, which can only bring me to the conclusion that it’s not only about hooligans – it’s also aimed squarely at them. If you’re one of them, you’ll probably love it. Who doesn’t love being told exactly what they want to hear?

It's Got: Frank Harper doing a Cockney tribute to Joe Pesci’s Tommy De Vito from ‘Goodfellas’.

It Needs: To be associated with football about as much as football needs to be associated with it.

Alternatives:

I.D., The Firm (Alan Clarke's film from 1988), The Yank

Summary

A deeply dislikeable film that has nothing whatsoever to do with football… or factories, for that matter.

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