The Firm (18)



Drama (1989)
67mins UK

Starring: Gary Oldman, Lesley Manville, Philip Davis
Director: Alan Clarke
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland



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LondonNet Film Review
The Firm

Loosely adapted from Alan Clarke's seminal 1989 TV drama, The Firm is a brutal and unflinching portrait of hooliganism and male bonding, set to a funky soundtrack of The Gap Band, The Jam, Kool & The Gang, Donna Summer and Tears For Fears...

The Firm. Warner Bros. UK.Writer-director Nick Love opens with Soft Cell's infectious, toe-tapping hit Tainted Love and a blaze of searing neon as we are transported back to 1980s London, a mecca of wannabes who need to own the latest tracksuits and trainers to fit in. Clarke's version concentrated on the gangs but Love takes a different tack, trying to draw in a younger audience (even with the deserved 18 certificate) by viewing events through the eyes of a disenfranchised teenager who is seduced by this dangerous world but then doesn't know how to get out again. Unfortunately for The Firm, Pat Holden's film Awaydays chose a similar point of view earlier this year and spun its hard-hitting story with just as much bloodshed and salty dialogue.

Dom (Calum MacNab) and his best mate Terry (Billy Seymour) live on a London housing estate, uncertain what direction their lives will take them other than to the next spliff. During a night out, the lads foolishly pick a fight with estate agent Bex (Paul Anderson) and his wife Suzy (Joanne Matthews), unaware they are butting heads with the leaders of one of the most feared, style-conscious groups of football fans in the city. Realising their error, the boys later beg forgiveness and Dom is gradually inducted into Bex's inner circle, idolising the hard-man who warns that arch rival Yeti (Daniel Mays) and his mob will "open you up like a fete!". Dom's initiation is complete when he dares to publicly stand up to Bex's lieutenant Trigger (Doug Allen). While Bex thrives on the thuggery, Dom is horrified by the violence but he cannot break free, and his parents (Eddie Webber, Camille Coduri) are powerless to help. The only person who can stop Bex is himself, and his obsession with defeating Yeti proves to be his downfall.

The Firm. Warner Bros. UK.The Firm orchestrates some genuinely terrifying rucks between Bex's crew and their rivals, the cameras ducking and diving in the melee, and the dialogue has some choice one-liners: "Watch your back or I'm gonna slit you open like an envelope!" The scene in which Bex's young son discovers his father's Stanley knife and chews on the blade while his dad is engaged on the telephone chills the blood. Performances vary wildly from Anderson's lively turn as a naughty boy destined for an early grave to a wooden MacNab in the central role. The script doesn't flesh out the characters in nearly enough detail. In particular, Dom is really unsympathetic and deserves everything he gets. What we get is another pummelling from a film-maker who trampled through similar territory in his 2004 film The Football Factory, which saw McNab make his movie debut in a supporting role.

- Sam Cannon


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