FILM: Video monthly
A guide to the best new releases
Thursday 28 September 1995
The actors he hired needed to understand too: they had to be raw, afraid of nothing. He could certainly spot them: Phil Daniels, Tim Roth, Gary Oldman, all with faces that might have been bashed into shape on an anvil. It's hard to believe that those actors don't look back on Clarke and wonder how he got them to dredge up those demons. They gave him everything, a generosity which has left some of them seeming emaciated for the rest of their careers. The cast of Scum looked like they'd been spat out of a U-bend, aptly enough given that the borstal inmates they played had been coughed up and gobbed out by society.
That film, which Clarke had re-made for cinema after the BBC banned it, earned him considerable notoriety. The trend continued: Made in Britain starred Tim Roth as a skinhead who represents pure nihilism; Elephant, a comment on the Troubles, was minimalist to the point of surrealism; and The Firm stared hooliganism in the face.
With this film Clarke examined soccer violence through Bex (Gary Oldman), an estate agent who balances his suburban family life with a sideline in thuggery. It's a terrifying performance, like having a blowtorch shoved in your face (compare this to Oldman's recent rent-a-psycho turn in Leon). There's Clarke's visceral Steadicam work, weaving in and out of saloon bars, punch-ups and across a football match disrupted by a joyriding rival gang. But The Firm is most exceptional because it eschews pat conclusions. Bex isn't a stereotypical mindless thug, or a stereotypical estate agent: he's articulate and funny. And he understands his own motivation - he's chasing the buzz.
In a telling moment, Bex and his pals jeer at a TV documentary which purports to comprehend the psychology behind violent behaviour. While Clarke wasn't arrogant enough to suggest answers, he had the guts of Sam Peckinpah coupled with the gritty outlook of Ken Loach. As such, The Firm and Made in Britain figure among a handful of films - Stephen Frears's Bloody Kids, Mike Leigh's Meantime - which capture the grubby essence of Conservative Britain so acutely you can taste the fags and Special Brew on the back of your tongue. The Firm certainly shames the most recent portrait of soccer thugs, I.D. (rental, PolyGram). Directed by Phil Davis (who, having acted in The Firm, should have known better), the picture is built of tabloid headlines and amateur psychology. The landlords and bullyboys are cartoons; the film lacks only a smattering of "biffs" and "kerpows". And the Alan Clarke touch, of course.
n `The Firm', `Made in Britain' and `Meantime': pounds 12.99 each, Imagine. `Scum' is on Channel 4 this Saturday at 11.10pm
Life & Style blogs
Melanoma rates in the UK are up five times on the 1970s
A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
GTA 5 Online spring DLC updates bring heists, new super car, multiple apartments and 'non-contact' option for races
How dementia is changing me: My battle with an ever-shifting identity
It’s a pizza! And a cake!! What’s not to like? (The calories)
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
'Sinful': Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy comes under attack
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
An open letter to Nigel Farage: you may smile, but I am not seduced
Abdullah Deghayes: My son was the martyr of a just cause, says father of British teenager killed in Syria conflict
- 1 Chelsea 1 Sunderland 2: Graceless reaction of Jose Mourinho a sad effort to hide his own flaws
- 2 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 3 Unbeliebable: The White House offer 'no comment' to anti-Justin Bieber petition
- 4 Loch Ness Monster found on Apple Maps?
- 5 Shropshire criminals ‘using unmanned drones and infrared cameras to find illegal cannabis farms’ – and then steal from the growers
£130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Geography Teacher Lo...
£55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energeti...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: SEN TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed...
£50000 - £60000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Sheffield office of this...