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And one star is being generous ...
on 19 April 2011
Getting straight to it: Awaydays may be scriptwriter Kevin Sampson and director Pat Holden's attempt to create the thinking man's go-to movie for period football violence, but on this evidence the cow's a*se looks to be seriously unbanjoed.
I remember watching Dragon's Den around 2005, when Sampson made a pretty wet and muddy pitch (arf) seeking the funds to turn his beloved (by him) book into a movie. Predictably, probably due to his performance (and possibly because the panel may have already had a crafty peek at his tome, and formed an early opinion), the answer was 'no', and the bold Super K was duly carried out in a lead-lined bucket...
But that wasn't the end of the story, with our Kev persevering and getting his show on the road by 2009. Set in Birkenhead in 1979, Awaydays is earnestly intended to be the fully authentic rites of passage package, ticking a range of boxes: innocence willingly corrupted, unrequited bromance, the evil of drugs, the unifying attraction of gang slash 'n' gore ultraviolence, authentic fashion of the day, and a cutting edge haven't-we-got-impeccable-taste indie soundtrack, going big on Joy Division (and some soft sex scenes thrown in just in case...). Whilst all this may sound pretty grim on paper, trust me, it's even worse on film.
Admittedly, Green Street was no classic of the genre (starring as it did our favourite doe-eyed heroic hobbit Elijah Wood, no less, as king of the nasty ass-kickers), but it looks like a hoolie's Citizen Kane compared to this dreary, pretentious - and long...so very, very long - nuclear powered clunker.
There`s no point in even bestowing the traditional comforting pat on the head on this crock for its smallest redeeming feature, for the simple reason that I couldn't find any. So what's wrong with it all, I hear you cry... Here goes: call me old fashioned, but when I see opening credits that say 'And Introducing', my chins slump southwards. For every debut like Tatum O'Neal's in Paper Moon you just know you're going to get a few dozen 'whatever happened to whatshisname?' moments. And Nicky Bell and Liam Boyle (hitherto in jobbing actor-in-a-cheap-soap mode) quickly prove they've well earned their place in the latter category. Sporting cringeworthy "genuine Scouse, 'onest" accents (via downtown Salford), singly or together they've got all the chemistry and charisma of a pair of pale and very uninteresting oven gloves (slightly foxed).
With seemingly interminable scenes featuring the dynamic duo staring moodily/poetically/nihistically/existentially (perm any two from four, and then slash your own throat) across a bleak River Mersey, and Boyle's Elvis spouting inane cod philosophy, you find your fingers itching for a relieving press on the off button. But, the (unintentional) comedy moments keep you going: a bored looking Stephen Graham (an actor who, on his day, has got real presence, as evidenced in This is England) phoning in his performance as the mean 'n' moody gang leader; the corny washed-out camera tones reinforcing the period 'it's tough up north' sketch; the Littlewood's catalogue label-conscious posturing of the gang members; and, most of all, watching the 7 stone spotty teenagers of The Pack (you can't help thinking that Birkenhead's legendary Lily Savage would've scared the pants off the lot of 'em) battering the baying tooled-up mobs of glowering 30-something meatheads. To put it in context: it's like watching Norman Wisdom & Mr Grimsdale knocking the cr*p out of Snatch's Bullet Tooth Tony, One Punch Mickey and Boris the Blade, without even working up a sweat. Nuff said.
And as for hitching a substandard script and production values to the aforementioned cult music: Citizen Kane would no doubt be somewhat diminished if its soundtrack featured Disco Duck and Agadoo; similarly, a lead-booted turkey like this is not going to be lifted out the local drainage ditch by a cynically self-regarding 'classic' indie soundtrack.
Sampson once apparently described Awaydays as being 'in a league of its own.' He was right: Liverpool Shipping League, Division 3, 1981. I should know - I played in it, and just about survived to tell the tale; and I've got the false teeth, duelling scars and souvenir x-rays to prove it...