Review: Green Street [2005] - dir. Lexi Alexander

Matt Buckner (Elijah Wood) is a student who travels to London, where he forms an unlikely bond with his sister’s husband's brother, Pete Dunham (Charlie Hunnam), who introduces him to the world of football hooliganism. Violence breaks out at a West Ham game that Matt attends with Pete and Matt's initial trepidation at the violence swelling around him soon turns into a pulse-racing, visceral thrill. Suddenly finding a taste for the hooligan life, Matt joins Pete's "firm," the Green Street Elite, leading to further booze-fuelled confrontations and providing an opportunity for Matt to keep a journal explaining why he's attracted to such a violent pursuit. Surprisingly, Elijah Wood manages to fit perfectly into a role that seems ill-suited to his elfin, wide-eyed looks. Charlie Hunnam--who starred in the television programmes Queer As Folk and Undeclared--neatly complements Wood as the cockney boy who leads him into danger, and together the two actors manage to carve out convincingly violent characters. Thematically similar to The Football Factory, Green Street mixes loud, energetic soundtrack and roaming, trembling camera work to create a disquieting atmosphere in a movie punctuated with scenes of rampant brutality.
OK let's get the niggles out of the way first, I have never been a fan of the strangely androgynous group of actors Hollywood has produced over the past decade or so, Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhall and especially Elijah Wood, who's sole expression seems to consistent of a painful cross between bemusement and apathy. So naturally my reservations were many fold on approaching this film, not to mention the fact that I had concerns for Charlie Hunnam pulling off an authentic 'London' boy demeanour for his role as the leader of a local 'Firm', sadly those concerns were not put to rest by the first 30 minutes, as his accent slipped in and out willy-nilly during the opening scene-setting.

Thankfully due to some solid directing from Alexander and some tight editing by Paul Trejo, and not to mention the positively captivating screen time given to Marc Warren (the noughties answer to a young Malcolm McDowell if ever there was one), those reservations soon left me to concentrate on a solid, if not thought provoking, new school take on the old Rob Lowe Oxford Blues scenario... i.e. much-maligned innocent gets wrongly accused and travels far away to avoid his problems and his past and gets drawn into a new life. What ensues is a traditional story of mis-matched brotherhood, moral lessons, character building revolving around explosive moments of violence and revenge that Alexander pulls off with skill and a masterful touch of delicacy that is not present in it's contemporaries (Football Factory).

If you are able to overlook some mis-matched casting, and the absurdity of an American being admitted so readily into the arms of a tight-knit 'Firm' then you will be pleasantly surprised by the result.


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