Starring: Elijah Wood, Charlie Hunnam, Claire Forlani, Marc Warren
Running Time: 109 mins
Although West Ham United's football is mediocre, says Pete, their 'firm', the Green Street Elite, is far from it. The famous GSE is led by Pete (Charlie Hunnam), a thug with a sense of morality, whose hobby is to beat sense into the more vehement supporters of opposing teams. Matt Bucker (Elijah Wood) is an exceptional journalism student kicked out of Harvard University having been set up for drug possession. Disoriented after his expulsion, Matt is unsure where his life is going, and decides to stay in London with his estranged sister (Claire Forlani), whose husband Steve (Marc Warren) is Pete's brother. When Pete takes Matt under his wing, he gets embroiled in a shady life of football hooliganism. However, since his new gang don't take kindly to Americans, journalists or outsiders, relations aren't likely to run smoothly, especially with Pete's right-hand man, Bovver (Leo Gregory).
On the surface Green Street is 'about' football hooliganism, although it is far more compelling than the premise suggests. Despite claims that the film is actually glamourising violence, it examines the disturbing phenomenon and the effect of it on its participants and their families, ultimately delivering its message that it is generally a bad thing. This moral is portrayed through a truly enjoyable storyline with a number of subplots and well-conceived characters and interelationships. The film is much more of a study of relationships, divided loyalties, friendships and revenge than it is aimed at tackling football hooliganism, even though it appears in this context.
The cast are all very good in their parts. Elijah Wood is well cast as the fish out of water Matt, sporting a wide-eyed bemused face at the beginning, descending into an unexpected air of menace. Meanwhile, Charlie Hunnam plays the swaggering gang-leader admirably, thankfully a far cry from his Nicholas Nickleby days. Geoff Bell, also playing a similarly volatile role in Nick Love's The Business, is a highlight, making a pivotal appearance as the head of a rival firm.
The film also looks great, with filming from real stadiums and footage of players and cheering crowds and tube stations punctuated with deserted claustrophobic alleyways and dingy pubs, providing an authentic atmosphere. The violent parts, of which there are a fair few, are made more interesting by a variety of slow-motion, fast-forward and distortive effects.
For the most part, the cast and script make the story believable even though the relationship between Matt and Pete is sped along a little artificially by the American moving into Pete's place rather than his sister's, despite only just meeting him.
Green Street far exceeded my expectations with a great storyline, tension and good performances delivered with humour. Overall, those who see this as glamourising violence are completely missing the point of the film.