Alan Clarke's 1989 seminal tale of football hooliganism in Thatcher's England is transposed to the early '80s in this creative remake. The film follows Dom (Calum McNab), a young man caught up in the enticing world of firms--football gangs who make merry and spar with the supporters of rival teams. Bright and funny, Dom is easily welcomed into the ranks by the firm's leader, Bex (Paul Anderson). But as Dom is drawn into the escalating violence of his clique, he decides to back out. Doing that, however, is easier said than done. Written and directed by Nick Love, who made the similarly themed The Football Factory, The Firm's greatest departure from the original is following Dom--a relatively minor character in the original--rather than Bex, originally played by Gary Oldman.
Amazon.co.uk Exclusive Interview with The Firm's Director Nick Love:
How much inspiration did you take from the original movie when you were filming?
I referenced the original a lot before making my version of the firm, but decided to honour it’s brilliance rather than do a straight remake, as a consequence there are only three scenes from the original in my film. Once we started pre-production, I never watched it again.
Who is your favourite character and why?
Clearly Dom was my favourite character from the original--certainly the most fascinating, as I used him as a point of view for my film. The notion that someone is in a gang that doesn’t like violence was of massive interest to me as a filmmaker. It’s a brilliant irony and something I could relate to.
What makes this movie stand out in the 80’s football firm genre?
It’s accurate and tender, both of equal importance. Life is hard and soft. Films that simply portray this genre as hard are frankly wrong because in any situation I’ve had in my life there have been moments of incredible tenderness.
If you could be any of the characters in The Firm, who would you be?
I would be Bex as he’s the cool cat and doesn’t care what people think about him, but unfortunately I’m more of a Dom in reality!
The Firm has a softer feel at times from your previous films. What influenced you in this change of direction?
The Firm is a softer film than previous work. I think the films you make reflect where you are personally at the time. I have a good life now, gentle pace--nothing like any of the films I’ve made --and maybe it’s come out in The Firm. Also, this reflects back to an earlier question in as much as it’s honest to make a softer film--because as I said, there are always moments of softness.
The wardrobe is a big part of the movie. Where did you manage to get all those tracksuits?
The tracksuits have been a lifelong passion of mine--wore them as I grew up --so I was never going to let it slip by me , finding them was another thing. Bottom line is, I made good contacts as Fila and Tachinni, and they had stuff made from the original patterns for me.
Do you prefer writing books or making movies?
I am writing now and I love it because there’s very little stress--whereas when you are directing you are a lot more exposed. Tthat said, it must be the best job in world and [...] knows how I managed to become a film director!
It’s a World Cup year. Who’s going to win?
England out in semis predictably. Brazil to win. What’s new?
You’re good friends with Guy Ritchie. Did he have any influence in the film? Have you seen and what did you think of the new Sherlock Holmes film?
Guy has become a good friend. It wasn’t always that way--years ago we were like rutting stags. But now we have a mutual admiration for each other’s films and share a love of the countryside--although my house is about as big as his woodshed! His only influence on The Firm was showing up to the premiere in a Fila track-top! I’ve seen Sherlock Holmes and think he’s made a great film--he’s become a true film director--it was an A-list Hollywood film. Pretty amazing for a man that can’t spell.
Director Nick Love knows how to pick up a poisoned chalice. In choosing to tackle a modern day take on Alan Clarke’s 1989 The Firm, he risks the wrath of upsetting those who regard the original so highly, while also being accused of jumping aboard the remake bandwagon. As it turns out, though, he gets away with it all.
Love’s version of The Firm wisely uses the early film as inspiration rather than a firm template. Thus, while the setting remains underground football violence, Love switches the attention to a different character, the youngster breaking into the crowd. This allows the narrative to focus on his becoming accepted by the group, and then his struggle to break free, which settles into a solid three-act story.
It’s very much aimed at an adult audience, but that doesn’t mean that The Firm is a cheap piece of cinema. Far from it, as it happens. Love’s film mixed in sharp violence with sparks of humour, and does so to very good effect. In the process, it sidesteps comparisons to the original by simply going off in a different direction, and works well because of it. It’s a little more tempered than some of Nick Love’s earlier work too, but perhaps as a consequence, it’s also his best film to date. --Jon Foster