The Firm (1988)
Directed by Alan Clarke
Written by Al Ashton
Starring Gary Oldman, Lesley Manville, Philip Davis, Andrew Wilde, Charles Lawson, William Vanderpuye, Jay Simpson and Patrick Murray
Bex (Gary Oldman) is an estate agent salesman by day, but in his free time, he gets his buzz from kicking other blokes teeth in. Bex is the head of the ICC firm of football hooligans and during a kick about on the field with his mates, their rival firm, The Buccaneers (led by Philip Davis as Yeti), drive through their game after vandalising Bexy’s car. Bexy’s mate Trig (Charles Lawson) is keen to sort Yeti and his crew out straight away, but Bexy’s more laid back as he spends some time with his wife and toddler son.
Bex and his crew meet up with Yeti’s crew and a Birmingham firm led by Oboe, to discuss uniting as a national firm to take on the Dutch for the European finals. All the firms seem to agree on the idea but all three leaders want to be the main man and lead the national firm. Bex says he’ll fight them for it and that the ICC will take on Oboe’s firm in Birmingham on Tuesday, and then Yeti’s on Saturday.
The film follows Bex and his crew as they battle it out to prove who’s top dog whilst holding down their careers and families. You get a feeling for how dangerous it is when Yusef, the youngest member of ICC, joins Bex and the lads after he finishes school for the day. They set off to Birmingham and are outnumbered by Oboe’s gang. The ICC flee but Yusef runs alone in the opposite direction, followed by Oboe and his mate. They pin Yusef to the wall and slash his face before running off. A shaken up Yusef shuffles down the street, weeping and holding his face as blood gushes out. You realise that this young man is a frightened child, an innocent to the warfare that he has somehow got himself involved with. It suddenly becomes real and you can sympathise with the character.
In a similar scenario, Bex is at home on the phone to Yeti when his toddler son finds a knife and decides to stick it in his mouth, as all youngsters like to do. Bex spots him and after rushing him to A+E, we are shown a scene of the boy asleep, all bruised and a bit bloodied from the unintentional self-harm. Director Alan Clarke likes to show us how these thugs are people like you and me, and have families who are affected by the trouble they get involved in.
As the gangs face off, it all heats up for the explosive final confrontation between Bex and Yeti.
Kudos to Gary Oldman, an actor I adore. He’s very good at playing hot headed males, just take a look at Norman Stansfield in Leon for an example. I like Gary in these sorts of films, like I do Ray Winstone and Philip Davies. They are the cream of British drama and I’m so glad they bagged two of them for The Firm. They aren’t too over the top and they play their scenes as human beings. The supporting cast were brilliant, especially Charles Lawson (Corrie’s Jim McDonald) as Bex’s right-hand man, ‘Trig’ and Bex’s wife, played by Lesley Manville.
This film feels real, probably more than any of the other football firm films. I liken this to I.D. in the fact the are both gritty and involved. Whereas I.D. focuses on the football a bit more, The Firm does not include any football whatsoever. It’s all about the fighting and buzz behind the thrill of it. You may end up rooting for Bex. I know that I did. However, you have to sit back and think that although its an incredible adrenaline rush, is it worth it? By the end you’ll have figured out the answer.