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Game Over, Man: Elijah Wood (left) and Pete Dunham discuss soccer crowd-control issues in 'Green Street Hooligans.'

Beer Bust

Elijah Wood teaches the football louts how to sing the 'Star-Spangled Banner' in 'Green Street Hooligans'

By Richard von Busack

HELL HATH no fury like an Elijah Wood ass-kicking—or so Green Street Hooligans, a.k.a. Hooligans—would have you believe. The brimming-eyed Wood, decked out in downy chin whiskers, plays a Harvard student kicked out on the verge of graduation. The expulsion is all the sadder because he is a journalism major, whose thesis, "Death in a Paris Tunnel: The New Role of Journalism in the Paparazzi Era," bid fair to shed some more light on the all-too-obscure death of Lady Di.

All this is behind him, as Wood's Matthew Buckner is pressured to take a cocaine-possession rap for his roommate, a "legacy": "My dad is definitely going to get re-elected," says the roommate. This diabolically subtle stuff may be referring to the only president we've got. In real life, a Bush would have been able to fix such a matter without getting his roommate expelled.

This opener seems like raw reality compared to the later part of the movie. While floating in a swan boat in the Boston Common, Matthew is kidnapped by pirates—no, that would be believable. Matthew flies to London to stay with his sister (Claire Forlani), who has married an Englishman named Steve (Marc Warren). In comes Steve's brother, Pete (Charlie Hunnam), looking for a handout—it's game day for the West Ham team, and Pete needs beer money. Steve decides that an outing would be good for the pale American, and so he asks Matthew to accompany Pete to make sure he doesn't get into any football violence. Big mistake; the Yank is dragged right into the heart of the GSE: the "Green Street Elite," a "firm" of hooligans. The group's natural loathing of Yanks is overcome when they see how game the Harvard boy is for a fight. Soon, as the soundtrack chants, "A boy from the land of apple pie/ [is] dropped into a culture of an eye for an eye." Matthew becomes second in command to Pete, much to the dismay of his previous best mate, Bover (Leo Gregory), who sets in motion a painful day of reckoning with the GSE's crosstown rivals.

This is a dreadful movie. German director Lexi Alexander claims that she wants to be the female Michael Mann, but the hardboiledisms she raids shamelessly are unattached to any thought that lasts longer than a minute. She exults in Hong Kong-style violence and then tries to tell us how wrong it all is. Alexander turns a blind eye and a deaf ear to class consciousness. We learn Steve worked his way out of the hooligan milieu, but how?

The three writers on the script attest to what an unbelievable scenario Green Street Hooligans is built on, and how it twists itself into a pretzel trying to fill the commercial need for an American star. Pete's aversion to Americans would ring a little truer if every single mannerism Hunnan has as an actor wasn't derived from Brad Pitt. Bill Buford's book Among the Thugs is a better look at what happened when an American descended into this uniquely horrible English mosh pit. By contrast, Green Street Hooligans appears to have appeal only for an audience of orcs.

Green Street Hooligans (R; 109 min.), directed by Lexi Alexander, written by Alexander, Dougie Brimson and Josh Shelov, photographed by Alexander Buono and starring Elijah Wood and Claire Forlani, opens Friday at the AMC Saratoga.

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From the September 28-October 4, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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