The Firm, 2009.
Directed by Nick Love.
Starring Calum McNab and Paul Anderson.
Dom, a young wannabe football casual, gets drawn into the charismatic but dangerous world of the firm’s top boy, Bex. Accepted for the fast mouth and sense of humour, Dom soon becomes one of the boys but as Bex and his gang clash with rival firms across the country and the violence spirals out of control, Dom realises he wants out – until he learns it’s not that easy to simply walk away.
I was fortunate enough to be at the press screening of Nick Love’s new film The Firm, which was briefly introduced to the audience by the man himself. I am a big fan of Love’s previous films, and I was excited to see his new release. Overall I thought the film was very enjoyable, but let me break it down a bit more...
Let me start with what I felt was the films strongest element - the characters.
I have recently written an article about the career and previous films of Nick Love and an improvement I have noticed on his part, from his first short film Love Story right up until The Firm, is his skill developing interesting characters. Most, if not all, the characters in The Firm were believable, and perhaps more importantly, they were funny too. There is a lot of humour in this film, and the characters personalities make it strong and genuine. Witty remarks and good banter make some of the less important scenes become more memorable. There was one particular quip by the father of the protagonist (played by Eddie Webber - who also worked with Nick Love on The Business) which I heard being quoted by several members of the audience on the way out of the screening. I would tell you what the remark was but it may not sound funny unless you hear it in context, and also it gives you more reason to go and see the film!
The relationships between the characters add to the humour. Dom and his parents, particularly his Dad, have a likable chemistry that whenever a scene begins and they are involved you know some great quotes will be coming out. Not only that but also the banter between Dom and his best mate is something most teenage lads will be able to relate to I’m sure.
The young impressionable main character Dom (Calum McNab) was similar to Charlie Bright in Love’s first feature Goodbye Charlie Bright in terms of they both want the same things. Dom lives on an estate and is fed up of spending his days messing around with his best mate - he wants to get out there, do something different, make something of himself. He winds up getting involved with a tough football firm led by Bex (Paul Anderson) and finds it very difficult to escape the clutches of such an influential man and his ways. This element touches on familiar themes within Nick Love films - friendship, loyalty, gang culture and respect. Although this may sound a bit similar to The Football Factory it is very different.
The Firm has many strong elements - great characters, witty dialogue, familiar themes - however I thought a couple of small details let it down slightly.
Firstly, there is a scene where the firm are walking towards an organised brawl and the hand-held camera movement is very distracting. Fair enough the shot is shaky and if that is the effect Nick Love wanted there is nothing wrong with that, but I did feel that the shots lasted for far too long and I found myself having to look away from the screen just to regain focus. That was only a minor flaw, but a more evident one was the conclusion of the film. I personally felt that the ending came about fairly suddenly and didn’t bring any real closure to the film (again this may have been deliberate but I felt it left the film on quite a sour note). I don’t think I was alone with this thought, as when the end credits began to roll there was a delay in an applause and also a lot of muttering. I myself asked my friend next to me “was that it?” so I assume other viewers were doing the same - although I may be completely wrong!
I did also think that the violence in the film was used primarily to shock the audience rather than to help the narrative. In his short film Love Story, Nick uses drug use around a baby to shock the audience and to perhaps fool them into being emotionally involved in the story. I don’t think that is why he used it in The Firm, but in some instances (including a man being slashed across the face and a baby playing with a knife) I personally felt that it was over played to take away the audiences view that this was perhaps a sort of comedy film. The same can be said for intense drama films and thrillers, often there are comedic elements, in the form of characters or events, that allow the audience some relief from the tension, and maybe that is what Love was trying to create. I was at a screening of Moon with a Q&A afterwards with director Duncan Jones and he brought up this point about the comedic elements in his film and why he used them. Nick Love may be trying to do the same but I felt the balance was just off.
Now the last thing I want to do is end this review with my negative thoughts of the film as I enjoyed it, so I will end with a comment about the soundtrack of the film - superb! It was classic eighties disco music, with the same kind of feel as the soundtrack of The Business. I was sitting in the screening towards the back so i could see plenty of people in front of me bobbing around in their seats to the music, which featured tracks from Blondie and Soft Cell to name a few. It seems that Love likes the eighties settings and for me only being born in 1987 and not getting to experience the vibes of that era, Love’s films, in particular this one, give me an insight to the decade into which I was born.
Nick Love’s The Firm is loosely based on the TV movie of the same name from 1988 written by Al Ashton. I am in no position to make a direct comparison between the two films having not seen the earlier, and Love himself said in his introduction of his film that he wanted the audience to feel like he had added his own elements to his film - and he most certainly did. It’s a very enjoyable film and well worth a watch, especially if you are a Nick Love fan like myself, or indeed a fan of entertaining British films in general. I would give this film a 6.5 out of 10.
The Firm premiere footage:
The Firm is released 18th September.
Jon Dudley is a freelance film and television journalist and his 17-minute short film Justification was shown at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.