Monday 21 March 2011


Out now on DVD (and coming pre-packaged with a copy of The Football Factory) is this retro slice of football hooliganism. Watch the trailer and read my review, next...

Dating from 1990, this drama about the life of a football hooligan has now been released on DVD. Billy (Kevin O'Donohoe) loves nothing more than his beloved Millwall F.C., and will gladly fight to prove his allegiance. Along with a group of friends he plans on visiting Spain for the 1982 World Cup, keen to wave his Union Jack flag in the face of the locals; but when things get out of hand with the Spanish authorities, Billy must confront his inner demons before they take control of his life.

Normally this isn't the kind of film I'd touch with a barge pole, but seeing as the lovely folks at Vertigo Films were kind enough to send me a copy to review I was willing to give it a perusal. Sadly, I have to report that it was as bad as I feared, far from the unpolished classic in the vein of Scum or The Firm that I was hoping for, and more akin to the laddish thug recruitment videos that have become a blight on British cinema.

Perhaps that's slightly too harsh, as Arrivederci Millwall at least attempts to portray some emotional conflict in its main character, even if it's hard to sympathise with such a small-minded and violent sociopath. The film starts with a gently humourous moment (the gang casually rob a clothing store blind and hand the manager a card that reads "Congratulations. You have just met Millwall"), but quickly devolves into the usual gentlemen's clubs, trashy women and alleyway fights that have become common signifiers of yob culture.

Perhaps it was meant as a warning of things to come, because all this film proves is how football hooliganism has grown in the last 21 years. Whereas here there's a compact group of five angry young men, nowadays it'd seem ridiculous to have less than fifty. One thing Arrivederci Millwall tries not to do that its modern counterparts often descend into is glamourise the violence on show. Films like Football Factory and Awaydays may claim to show the violence in a negative light, but ultimately they appeal to the same people who get into fist fights over what football team they support.

A lot of the political subtext may share some resonance with today (just switch the Falklands war with Afghanistan or Iraq), but by and large it's handled with little subtlety. It's not surprising that Arrivederci Millwall was the debut feature for director Charles McDougall, but he has since managed to forge a respectable career in US television, a million miles away from this pretty raw first effort. Based on the play by Nick Perry, it often feels over theatrical and could have done with more work on the script to better suit the film medium.

It's not a particularly good looking film either. Whereas a lot of 1980's and early 90's films have a charming grain to them, Arrivederci Millwall looks like it's just been found at the back of someone's VHS collection and transferred straight onto DVD, and the audio quality isn't much better either. To use a lad-mag metaphor, if Football Factory is a glossy and sharp photo spread of Lucy Pinder, Arrivederci Millwall is a tea-stained and dog-eared Page 3 photo of Sam Fox found in a motorway service station.

At a rather slight 50 minutes, it's really more like a particularly dark episode of Only Fools and Horses than a movie, so it's probably a good thing they decided to bulk up the content by presenting it with another movie in the box. Pre-packaged with the Danny Dyer starring Football Factory, come Christmas time this boxset would make for a good stocking filler for someone's Dad, even if they might feel the urge to use it as a weapon in a gang fight.


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