James Stewart stars as a railroad man hired to secretly carry a payroll despite his suspected connections to outlaws
Gary Oldman stars as the unhinged suited-and-booted leader of a 'firm' of London football hooligans. Punch-ups, baseball bats, stanley knives and not a ball in sight.
Respectable family man and estate agent by the week, ultra-violent leader of a gang of football hooligans on match days, Bex Bissek (Gary Oldman) is a true Essex Thatcherite who's into football violence for the "buzz". Together with a band of similarly minded thugs they are West Ham United's ICF (Inter City Firm) - a crew with the motto, "We come in peace, we leave you in pieces!" Come match day they follow their team around the country, but it's the aggro with rival gangs rather than the 90 minutes on the pitch that they're interested in.
Oldman is a master at playing psychopaths who manage to be both terrifying and hysterical. Here, he's at his visceral, intense best as king wide-boy Bex.
This was Alan Clarke's final film before his death from cancer in 1990, and it follows a string of masterful British TV Film classics, including Scum and Made In Britain. Determined to chronicle the rise of hooliganism under Margaret Thatcher's Tory government, Clarke's film was controversial not just because of its blunt portrayal of violence, but also because it was the first commentary to portray hooligans as otherwise ordinary members of society. The yobs in The Firm aren't unemployed kids, they're professionals who hold down well-paid jobs and arrange their battles at business meetings in hotel function rooms.
Because it was made for TV, The Firm does feel short and the climax arrives far too quickly. But it's still a brilliant and compelling drama.
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