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I’m not really familiar with the whole concept of Futbol (aka Football aka Soccer) Firms (aka like a gang, but minus drugs, guns & them nifty vests… god I love THE WARRIORS). But after watching HOOLIGANS – I can’t wait to join one! I mean, sit around bars getting shitfaced and stupid. Count a bunch of low-self-esteem losers as your mates. Go watch an overblown game of kickball minus the bases. Then pick a fight with the other team’s firm – made up of the same sad sacks as you. Where do I sign up?

Now don’t get me wrong. I love HOOLIGANS. The movie does a fantastic job of showing how a disenfranchised put upon could get sucked into the promise of brotherhood and machismo of a Firm. The films sucks you in, makes the touchy feely outside world look fey as hell, while giving you a sense of finding a station in life. Then it tears that life apart in such a way that you see, clearly that the only way to win this game is… not to play.

Sorry – love WARGAMES, but back to HOOLIGANS – the film doesn’t feel like some after school special about hooking up with the wrong guys. Elijah’s character isn’t made to look stupid, he just makes natural choices. And that’s the key to this film. You have Elijah – a young man recently expelled from Harvard 2 months before graduation, taking the heat for a politically connected roommate that bullies him into the fall. His father, a foreign correspondent isn’t there for him – either in person or on the other end of the phone. Needing direction, he decides to visit his only family member, Claire (drool) Forlani – who married a British bloke and had a kid, he’s never seen.

Showing up with little to no warning, Elijah is quickly put off onto a thuggish brother of his sis’ new hubby. From the introduction of Charlie Hunnam’s character – the film takes off. This isn’t a stylized FIGHT CLUB, this is closer to reality. But make no mistake. Charlie talks the way Elijah wants to talk, fucks the way he wishes he could fuck, has the confidence he wishes he had and the respect he could only dream of. Charlie’s character is charismatic and beguiling. Charlie quickly takes a liking to this Bambi in headlights, and like the Great Prince of the Forest – Charlie’s character picks Elijah up when everything else he knows is gone. Yes, I know I went from FIGHT CLUB to BAMBI – but that’s just the feng sui of my kung fu. Anyway – Charlie is a helluva actor – and it was absolutely necessary – because Elijah was doing his best in the film. When you see Elijah watching Charlie – you see the sincere admiration he has. You get the idea, he’s been living his Father’s dream his whole life, hoping to catch his attention, and be respected.

When Charlie begins to reflect some of that attention and focus it back on Elijah – you see Elijah begin to fill out. There’s a sense of worth flowing into him. A confidence. He has found a place. The line he says in narration about once you get in your first fight and realize you’re not made of glass… says quite a bit. Now I know what you’re thinking, Elijah Wood… Fight?

I think that’s the real key to this movie’s success. In the old days of Hollywood – you had scrappy juvenile actors that made tough. Folks like Mickey Rooney, Dick Powell and to a degree James Cagney. Guys that were small looking wide-eyed types – that forever transformed their image by getting dirty. Elijah’s doing that in this film and SIN CITY. In Rodriguez’s flick – it’s stylized badass. Here. Here he shows it with grit and determination. It isn’t that he’s the cock of the walk – it’s that he’s tough enough to not give an inch (centimeter).

This is really his story. And like a great morality tale about life – there’s always a question of where his life will turn. It isn’t an easy turn – it’s ferocious and brutal because this film has balls. Sure it was directed by “a girl” – Lexi Alexander, but this “girl” like Elijah is more than just the pretty pictue you see. Lexi was the world kick boxing champion. And no, that doesn’t mean you got a bunch of British thugs do fancy smancy kicks and twirls. No – this is street fight fu. Broken teeth, raw knuckled bruised and bloody – kick the fucker while he’s fucking down till he don’t even think of getting back up. These sequences of fighting remind me of that cool as hell film Russell Crowe did ROMPER STOMPER. It has that sort of fury and meanness. BUT – these guys – these Hooligans aren’t pieces of shit. They’re regular guys that – just get way too carried away in this misplaced sense of duty and pride.

In the end – there is something you take with you from this movie. The same thing Elijah takes when you see him at the end of the film. The final step in leaving the childhood of life and becoming a man. A MAN. And whatever studio picks this winner up. If they sell it that way, as a story about youth to manhood – they’ll have a helluva film on their hand. It’s easy to look at Elijah as a kid – this film makes you see him as a man. Helluva good movie. This was truly the winner at SXSW this year. Sometimes at festivals movies win the top award - but the festival audience doesn't really agree. Well I saw the film on the second to the last day of the festival. Now at SXSW - traditionally the screenings I attend in the last few days are sparsely attended. The Music part of the festival kicks in, and when you have 1500 bands playing - the entertainment crunch pulls folks out of theater seats into smokey drunken debauchery. Well - here... Not only did the final screening fill up on just badges alone - but they had to turn away about 300 folks - and many of my friends - upon arrival at the theater just turned back home knowing there was no way in. When the crowds trying to see a film grow over the course of a festival - that's some powerful word of mouth kicking in. This film really deserved that type of response.

To British Talkbackers Below: You haven't seen the film. Stop and think that perhaps - just maybe - this film isn't about GLORIFYING THEM - but organically - through showing a character caught up in their world - it reveals it for what it is. Look at that first paragraph. Does that sound glorified? Over the course of the film - the Firms are shown to be hypocritical backstabbing and utterly worthless. They are about as far from "cool" as possible - except to those in it and their misperceptions about themselves. And only till the day they get their ass handed to them.

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