By Jason Wojciechowski on October 10, 2005 at 2:50 AM
With the power outage over, I can write about Green Street Hooligans, which we saw last night. I'd wanted to see the movie for a number of weeks. Frod ... er, Elijah Wood joins a soccer (oops, football) mob and gets into vicious fights? What could be better?
Well, lots of things as it turns out. It's too bad, because Wood and Charlie Hunnam, particularly the latter here, are very watchable, but the movie was just too confused about what it wanted to do. Was it a moralistic story about the circle of violence? Was it just an "it's all fun and games until someone loses an eye" tale? Or maybe it just didn't care about the losing the eye, it's just fun to romp about and beat up some fans of a rival squad?
The problem is, each of these possibilities is undermined by some element of the film. There's too much actual hurt, actual pain, actual loss of more than just limb for this to have been another Fight Club-type story. Conversely, there's too much fun to be had and too much change-for-the-better in Wood's character for this to be a pure morality play. As for the "... loses and eye" theory, without giving away too much, it turns out that eyes were lost long before we were dropped into the story, but the fun and games were still being had by plenty of folks.
So the movie's not really about anything in particular. That's ok, maybe it could still be fun, or stylish, or at least have funny British dialogue. But, uh, nope, sorry.
It was occasionally funny, though as with George Clooney directing Good Night, and Good Luck, I don't think Lexi Alexander displayed much of a directorial sense of comedic timing. In addition, funny doesn't really define fun, and there was way too much downer-ness for the movie to be much fun. (Do note that I'm saying movies shouldn't be downers; in fact, too many movies try to hard to come "up" at the end because they're afraid of the marketing disasters that could result. I am saying, however, that a movie that's a "downer" has to be good, because it's not going to be fun.)
Stylish? I thought the second fight scene, if I'm remembering correctly (I'm no reviewer, so taking notes at the movie isn't really for me), was quite stylish, but the rest of the movie, the other fight scenes included, weren't all that visually interesting.
Now, it's a stretch for me to say that I was hoping for funny British dialogue, but mentioning it is just an excuse to complain about Alexander's (and co-writers Dougie Brimson and Josh Shelov's) tin ear for dialogue, as displayed by many of the terribly movie-cliche lines that you'd never hear a real person actually utter. There was far too much unintentional comedy for any self-respecting indie film. Also, voice-over? Please, stop with the VO. I can probably count on one hand the number of movie I've seen that made good use of voice-over, and this film wasn't ever in danger of being added to the list.
Finally, it's time for a little lesson on plant-and-payoff. You know those good movies and TV shows where you learn something, often in a somewhat indirect way, early in the movie and it "pays off" later on? That's a great way to write, and it produces results when used well, particularly when used over the course of multiple episodes on TV. Where it doesn't work is when you learn something five minutes before it's used! If you saw the movie, you probably know the lame-ass moment I'm talking about. If you haven't seen it, and you decide to disregard my opinions and see it anyway, look for the moment. It'll be your little challenge.
I think I've seen enough movies now to make a list. Best movies of the year so far?
- The Constant Gardener
- Kung Fu Hustle
- War of the Worlds
- Grizzly Man
- Mad Hot Ballroom
- Lords of Dogtown
- Good Night, and Good Luck