By, Kyle Gibson
A friend of mine recommended that I should check out “Green Street Hooligans,” the 2005 movie starring Elijah Wood and English soccer fan violence.
I had heard of the movie before, but I’m mainly interested in soccer documentaries, because there are so many great real stories I still don’t know.
After finding GSH on Youtube, though, I figured I’d give it a go. Here are my thoughts.
Basic plot summary here. Wood’s character is a weakling Harvard journalism major who is expelled because he took the dive for his important roommate’s cocaine habit. So he goes to join his sister in London and meets a West Ham Super-fan/hooligan leader of West Ham’s firm (supporter gang, but not really a gang.) After getting in a few scraps, Wood becomes one of the boys and finally learns what giving a fight is all about.
The teams and songs are authentic. West Ham’s song “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” is present throughout much of the movie, as are chronicles about local rivals Tottenham and Millwall.
Actually, the whole movie is generally pretty authentic for what I’ve seen about British football (through TV, radio, books, newspapers, etc.) Except for them drinking Foster’s, it seems pretty damn real.
My problem with the movie lies in the American sense of superiority. The film was distributed by US and UK companies, but hear me out.
American, Harvard guy Elijah Wood steps into England and instantly becomes good at soccer violence. He wins his first fight and before you know it he’s throwing uppercuts on North Londoners like he’s Rocky Balboa. It’s almost unbelievable to me that he would be that good right away. We have to suspend disbelief in movies, but the production team has to meet us halfway. .
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After he realizes it’s not for him, Wood’s character and his sister leave England, somewhat with the air that England’s century long football violence was a teaching tool for them. A character dies due to violence and Wood says he learned forever from it.
I guess a British man had to die just so an American could gain a bit of perspective on life.
It’s an entertaining watch, despite all the problems I had with it.