Review: The Hooligan Factory
With the cliché ridden football hooligan genre reaching over-saturation point some time ago, it’s surprising we haven’t really had much in the way of spoofery yet. But The Hooligan Factory aims to put that right.
Focusing on budding young lout Danny and his chance meeting with legendary ’80s hard man Dex, the film is a knockabout comedy which plays moments of casual violence for laughs and occasionally references the well trodden tropes of the genre.
Puzzlingly, sometimes characters just reference another film “’Lets go down Harry Brown’s tunnel, it’ll be quicker” without any payoff or cleverness; ‘ha ha see he mentioned that film what was out that one time’ being the reaction they were presumably after.
Anyway, back to the plot. Finding his old firm a weakened joke, Dex sets about proving his boys are number one by issuing a series of kickings up and down the country. This is an excuse for the occasional cameo from a z-list celeb, numerous dodgy cultural references and a level of mugging from the cast not seen since New York City in the ’70s.
The film does have the occasional funny section, like when it’s poking fun at the amount of autobiographies released by hooligans. And the line “Fuck Cricket – this is football” did genuinely make me laugh. But these are precious watering holes in a running time that’s a slog through a desert of missed gags and bodged ideas.
It also doesn’t know what it wants to be, tone wise. Most of the cast play it with a nudge and a wink to the silliness of the material, but Nick Nevern plays his Dex role admirably straight. Unfortunately, this throws the tone off, with certain scenes tipping into drama (which is fine) but not really managing to recover into comedy (which is not).
The Hooligan Factory belongs to that tired breed of British have-a-go comedies that chuck everything at the screen to see what sticks. This is not to say that it’s particularly inventive (it isn’t), but it’s a film that reeks of a ‘that’ll do’ approach to comedy. Add a few silly haircuts, reference a few cultural stereotypes and jobs a good-un right?
Well no. And the problem is, not only is the material cheap, but it’s been put together all wrong. Jokes suffer from the law of diminishing returns and get hammered in the ground like a tent peg. Scenes that would have been worth exploring as a comic idea are cut short, and the reverse is also true. Put simply, the film doesn’t have a clue how to land a joke.
Also, knowing when to end a joke could have helped trim the run time, which feels as bloated as a water buffalo and twice as ponderous. Basically, what this film amounts to, is a rehash of scenes from movies we know already, very little original comedic material and a depressing sense that the creators where happy to settle for that.
It is a shame it comes across like this, as it was clearly made by people who know their hooligan and ‘geezer’ movies. But rather than being a lazy spoof, the film could have been so much more. Wittier dialogue, a better sense of the absurd and a knowledge of comedy technique would have helped. Even at the level it’s aiming for, it falls short by a wide margin.
Do yourself a favour and show The Hooligan Factory the red card.
The Hooligan Factory is out now on DVD.