A Loving Reboot
“Reboot” has become a common term to describe the remaking of older material with a different slant, paying a certain degree of homage to the original source as a new filmmaker gives it a fresh spin. The term is usually applied to a type of movie known as a “franchise;” thus we’ve had reboots of Marvel and DC Comics superhero exploits, animated and videogame fantasies and low-budget horror favorites souped up with all the latest and greatest gore and apocalyptic mayhem that CGI now makes possible, with high brand recognition a key factor. Uniquely, reboot is also what happened to the acclaimed and powerful drama The Firm, which the BBC first aired on February 26, 1989, and which Philip French of The Observer considered “by some way the best movie on the subject of football hooliganism and a key text on the subject of Thatcher's Britain.” Directed by Alan Clarke (who two years before delivered the irreverently funny social commentary of Rita, Sue and Bob Too (1987) available on Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray), written by Al Hunter Ashton and starring Gary Oldman in a starmaking performance of shattering charisma, The Firm blisteringly depicted the violence and implosive rage among battling football (i.e. soccer) “firms” of middle-class males whose only empowerment derived through injurious adversarial confrontation with other “firms.” Nick Love, an ex-criminal alumnus of hooliganism whose hard-charging crime films Goodbye Charlie Bright (2001), The Football Factory (2004), The Business (2005) and Outlaw (2007) marked him as a filmmaker who marshaled screen violence to galvanizing effect, decided to try his hand at a reboot of The Firm (2009), which he adapted and directed and which opened in U.K. theaters seven years ago yesterday. While preserving the intense allure the magnetic West Ham United firm leader Bex (now played by Paul Anderson) held for aimless, impressionable teenager Dom (Calum MacNab), Love, virtually in the spirit of a younger creative artist paying homage to the veteran Clarke, opted to focus more on the young acolyte’s rites of passage, and the potentially scarring consequences of going down a blindly amoral road. Reflecting on his own misspent youth sucked in by the intoxicating “glamour” of men at arms in a nihilistic 1970s/1980s haze, Love declared, “I wanted to show a kid getting a serious wake-up call.” The clashes are staged and shot (by Matt Gray, later to lens the gorgeously sinister landscapes of the spellbinding mystery series Broadchurch) with chaotic immediacy and skillful employment of Steadicam photography, and the homoerotic subtext seethes just under the roiling surface. “Yeah, of course, the erotic subtext is undeniable – their obsession with clothes, the dandyism of it,” Love observed. “They love each other but they can’t fuck, so they fight.” With our current election year climate of frustrated rage, The Firm’s world of football hooliganism proves a cautionary eye opener to us all. Outfitted with an Audio Commentary by the writer/director, an Isolated Score Track of ’80s music, making-of featurettes and deleted and alternate scenes, The Firm packs a potent reboot punch on TT hi-def Blu-ray.