Almost all movies that concern themselves more with emulating other films than they do with telling their own stories end up failing. Such is the case for Green Street Hooligans, not a particularly good or bad film on its own but one that only gets worse when its influences are considered.
The film begins with Elijah Wood’s character being expelled from Harvard after his roommate hides drugs in his closet. He travels to London to see his sister, where he meets her fairly refined husband and his younger, edgier brother. Wood’s character heads off with the brother to see a soccer game, and in the process learns about the “firms” that support soccer teams in England.
The firms are basically gangs who square off for fights outside every game. They root for their team but seem less like diehard fans of soccer than as fans of fighting. Wood starts as a clueless American and ends up being completely wrapped up in the violence, loving the thrill and the danger of it.
Wood’s transformation from normal guy to brutally violent savage is obviously reminiscent of Fight Club, but Green Street Hooligans lacks the powerful, daring direction of David Fincher, not to mention the acting and dialogue that made Fight Club such a hit.
The grittiness of London subculture and the mafia-type scenes both owe heavily to Danny Boyle and Guy Ritchie, but once again, Green Street Hooligans can’t match up with any of their work. Instead of borrowing from the tone of films like Snatch or Trainspotting, first -time director Lexi Alexander just uses their camerawork and general surface emotions.
The reason a film like Trainspotting is great and Green Street Hooligans is almost immediately forgettable isn’t because Alexander fails to direct the fight scenes in a grainy, shaky way. It’s because she lets the message of the film slip to the background and the violence to come to the forefront.
Wood’s transformation is an interesting one, especially when his sister and her husband get involved, but too little attention is paid to his character. The few times when the film does show a little more about him-a scene at a British grade school, a moment with his father-are the best parts of the movie. Unfortunately, when the film heads back to Harvard for its epilogue scene, it loses an opportunity to define Wood’s character even further and instead hides behind one of the biggest movie clich