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Realistic portrayal of English hooligans - classic drama
on 5 July 2002
After watching this drama, one cannot be surprised at the global acting acclaim Gary Oldman later achieved. The young Oldman delivers a terrifyingly realistic portrayal of a well-heeled leader of a gang of football hooligans. Under Alan Clarke's direction, not a second of film is wasted: repeated watching will constantly reveal new details and refinements of plot and character missed on previous viewings.
The thrills and exuberance of 1980s football hooliganism are vividly captured by a well-researched script. Oldman's character devotes his life to West Ham's Inter City Firm (ICF), as it was in its 1980s heydey. Many details of the ICF portrayed in The Firm are realistic: the movement consisted largely of autonomous groups who united under the ICF banner on match days; and the ICF were - at the time - the most feared hooligan firm in the country.
The drama focuses on the attempts of Oldman's character to unite England's warring firms (in the manner that the ICF united the West Ham firms), but his national ambitions bring him into vicious conflict with rivals in London and Birmingham.
As a footnote, those interested in exploring the history of the real ICF could find insight in the autobiographical books of Cass Pennant. Like Pennant's books, The Firm captures the sentimentalism (and even, in strange sense, the innocence) of old-style football hooliganism.