Most Harvard kids suck, or at least according to “Green Street Hooligans”.
Green Street Hooligans is about the prototypal example of a student named Jeremy Van Holden. His father has an unspecified yet essential governmental position, so a cushy job is waiting for him right after graduation, but he still deals tons of cocaine out of his double.
This is the situation in which Harvard senior Matt Buckner (Elijah Wood), who is also a Crimson editor, finds himself in Green Street Hooligans – Jeremy’s hidden stash is found in his closet, expelling him two months just before graduating with a journalism degree.
Isn’t that irritating? Doesn’t it make you want to just run off and become a soccer hooligan?
Well, that’s Matt’s path. Matt is sent to the curb with little money (before the opening credits, so don’t get overly excited about seeing Harvard onscreen – it’s there, but just a brief), and heads toward the home of his London-dwelling sister and her English husband.
Almost instantly upon arriving, Matt’s brother-in-law’s brigand brother (Charlie Hunnam) stops by to ask for money before a “football” match.
Matt follows him and soon discovered the world of “firms”- groups of sports fans who make the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry seem like a friendly dinner table debate. Their main ways of recreation prove to be supporting their team, drinking wastedly, and beating the fish and chips out of rival firms.
It is this final aspect that makes Matt claim, in slightly cheesy voice-over way, “I was about to learn something no Ivy League school in the world could teach me”; basically, he learns to cause physical rather than mental pain on others.
The movie travels from fight to fight, tides together with several unclear and unpleasing storylines, as Matt becomes increasingly involved in his new life style. He goes from barely being able to throw a fist to leading some of the firm’s more impressive exploits.
This process involves its hitches: as an American, he isn’t instantly welcomed into the fold by the majority. However, the culture clash is played for laughs with a few exceptions.
The culture clash influence is also dropped somewhere across the film, straining the director’s credibility. The characters start densely speaking British slang, but, once their outstanding “British-ness” has been shown, return to the Queen’s English.
The clashes between firms are filmed in a hyperkinetic, undersatured Guy-Ritchie-esque style that nails incredibly in making them look exciting. These sequences make clear the appeal of the harmonization between excitement and brotherhood that Matt encounters in the life of a hooligan – and in case it’s vague, he has some unnecessary voice-overs about the appeal of fighting.
Vague is what Green Street Hooligans expects us to comprehend from all this violence. On one hand, the fights are shot sexily, causing viewers to surge with pleasure as the heroes destroy their opponents. On the other hand, the movie attempts to have it both ways with morally “violence is bad” moments, such as the death of a twelve-year-old boy. The mixed messages are wrapped up in a final voice-over by Matt, who believes to have learned when to stand his ground and when to walk away.
However, defending the honor of one’s football team is describes as a perfectly valid reason to hold one’s position. The message therefore comes across as something more like, “Violence: it’s all in good fun until someone gets seriously injured or killed.” As morals continue, teaching us that broken noses are totally fine while broken carotid arteries are not doesn’t completely match “do unto others.”
In this way, Green Street Hooligans seems like “Fight Club” without a willingness to let an endorsement of violence stand. As an ultra-violent, exciting, underbelly-of-London movie, Green Street Hooligans is fun, if derivative. As a sober meditation on violence, it’s crippled by being too much exciting. We stop caring about the real-life outcomes because the movie succeeds well enough in making us want to run off, turn a hooligan, and beat our over-privileged roommate to death.