Blu-ray Review: The Firm (2009) - Twilight Time Limited Edition

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I feel the need to begin with a disclosure: I’ve never seen the 1989 Alan Clarke-directed TV movie The Firm. That puts me at a distinct disadvantage when attempting to discuss the 2009 remake of the same time, written and directed by Nick Love, since the original is considered a classic. I’ve also never seen Love’s 2004 The Football Factory, which deals with similar subject matter. The subject, specifically, is football hooliganism—a subculture in which gangs of British fans viciously beat each other up in order to demonstrate support for their favorite football club. Disclosures out of the way, my opinion of The Firm is based on nothing more than the 90 minutes I spent watching it. No baggage of any kind attached, except for feeling generally perplexed about the concept of celebrating one’s love for a sports team by putting the opposition’s fans in the hospital. It’s now available as a limited edition Blu-ray from Twilight Time.

The mentality of these hooligans is very difficult to fathom for outsiders. These footballs firms seem more like “fight clubs” than anything else. The Firm isn’t a sports film, so don’t expect to see footage of players on the field. This is a story about bonding over violence and aggression. It’s about the dangers of mindless conformity. Dom (Calum MacNab) is an average teen who lives with him mom (Camille Coduri, Rose Tyler’s mom Jackie on Doctor Who) and dad (Eddie Webber). He seems to have a pretty good head on his shoulders, but he becomes infatuated with Bex (Paul Anderson). Leader of the nasty West Ham United football firm, Bex proves to be a very dangerous influence on Dom. Soon Dom has joined the firm, abandons his friends, and begins modeling himself after his new idol. The other firm members are put off by the hero-worship act, rightly mocking Dom when he turns up decked out in a ridiculous all-red tracksuit which (matching Bex).

Firm cover (215x280).jpgThough set against the football hooliganism scene of the mid-1980s (with lots of period pop tunes to continually remind us), this is a formulaic cautionary tale that has been told more compellingly by others. As the violence escalates, Dom begins to question whether this lifestyle is a wise choice. The acting is pleasingly natural and the language is colorful (the obscure insult “dry lunch” is apparently not well known even by many U.K. residents, based on some quick research). But even at a brisk 90 minutes, The Firm begins to wear out its welcome, especially once it becomes clear which direction young Dom is going to take. Love’s staging is energetic and there are laughs sprinkled throughout. But ultimately the pedestrian story arc isn’t enough to sustain interest.

Only five years old, The Firm ought to look terrific on Blu-ray. This is easily one of the more recent films to receive a limited edition release from Twilight Time and it does, in fact, look great. Matt Grey’s cinematography is sharp. The source materials were clean, resulting in a spotless high definition presentation (framed at 2.35:1). The DTS-HD MA 5.1 is just as good, with the rowdy fight scenes filling out the surround channels satisfyingly. The ‘80s soundtrack tunes sound good too. One unfortunate drawback: no subtitles. If you find the accents thick (to the point of occasional unintelligibility), you’re out of luck.

Twilight Time’s The Firm Blu-ray packs a fair amount of extras, not the least of which being a commentary track with director Nick Love and other participants (including the film’s technical supervisor). It’s a boisterous chat that bristles with the same kind of energy the movie does. There’s also an isolated score track (featuring Laura Rossi’s original music, not the ‘80s songs) and featurettes detailing the making of the film and a behind-the-scenes look at the staging of the fight scenes. Six minutes of deleted scenes offer more evidence of Dom’s buddy-buddy relationship with his dad, as well as an alternate ending. Film historian Julie Kirgo contributes another of her typically well-written essays in the booklet.

As with all Twilight Time Blu-ray releases, The Firm is a truly limited edition with only 3,000 copies made available. For ordering information, while supplies last, visit Screen Archives.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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