Alan Clarke's 1988 drama 'The Firm' was one of the best television programmes of that decade and gave Gary Oldman one of his defining roles as yuppie football hooligan Bex Bissell. In deciding to remake/reimagine it, some would say that Nick Love has given himself a thankless job, and after making 'The Football Factory' himself in 2004, a pointless one, too.
Taking place a few years before the original, Love's '...Firm' makes Bex (Anderson) one of two main characters, the other being Dom (McNab), a likeable teenage slacker in a London block of flats who, thanks to the idiocy of pal Terry (Seymour), gets on the wrong side of Bex at the local disco. Receiving word that they have to find Bex and apologise or face the consequences, Dom and Terry walk into the pub where Bex and his 'Top Boys' hang out and ask for forgiveness. It's granted, and the encounter leaves Bex intrigued by Dom's bravery and the youngster in awe of the older man's charisma.
'The Football Factory', 'The Business', 'Outlaw' and now 'The Firm'... it looks like we might be waiting a bit yet for Love's version of 'Brief Encounter'. But while 'The Firm' says nothing that the original, 'ID', 'Green Street', 'Cas' 'Awaydays' and 'The Football Factory' haven't said already, it does show that Love can push himself beyond 'lads' films' if he wants to.
Love has always been very good at recreating an era and brilliantly paced dialogue and 'The Firm' has plenty of both. From trainers to Space Invaders machines it looks the part, there's some great banter between Dom and his parents (Webber and Coduri) and anyone who enjoyed Love's previous films should find this to their liking.
Wisely keeping most of the violence of the fast and blurry variety, Love decides instead to focus on the relationships. The problem is that, at just 90 minutes, 'The Firm' needed to be longer to really work. Clarke's film was just about the world of Bex; here we get Bex, Dom and Dom's parents and you're left wanting a greater understanding of all of them. The acting is good, but they're all let down by underdeveloped characters.
By the end, you may think that Love should've ditched the hooligan angle completely and made a comedy-drama about a teenager getting his heart broken and realising that his father is far cooler than he gave him credit for. Maybe they could even go to a football match together, but they'd be at the other end of the ground.