Arrivederci Millwall, 1990.
Directed by Charles McDougall.
Starring Kevin O'Donohoe, Sidney Cole, Tim Keen, Stephen Marcus, Peter McNamara, Andrew Tiernan, Valerie Gogan, Brian Lawrence and David Barrass.
A fiery group of English football supporters make their way to the continent for the holy grail of the football calendar, the 1982 World Cup in Spain.
I'm just about old enough to remember the dark days of British football, when groups of Burberry-wearing Sun readers would spend Saturday afternoons knocking seven bells out of each other and a news round-up of the weekend's rucks was as much a part of the television schedule as Grandstand's 'Final Score'. This was of course back in the days before the Premier League and the 'prawn sandwich' brigade, when the terraces were still in existence and rival firms seemed more concerned with their own off-field antics than the action on the pitch. Although hooliganism was rampant in the 1960s and 1970s, it was during the 1980s that things really began to spiral out of control, and it is this shameful era that is the focus of Charles McDougall's near-forgotten cult British drama Arrivederci Millwall.
One of the earliest films about hooliganism (if I'm correct, only Alan Clarke's Gary Oldman-starring 1988 TV movie The Firm precedes it), Arrivederci Millwall was first broadcast on terrestrial TV back in the early 90s but was overshadowed somewhat by the release of BBC Films' I.D. in 1995 and has since been relegated to non-league status. However, the success of Nick Love's The Football Factory in 2004 paved the way for an influx of recent hooligan-related flicks including Green Street (2005), Rise of the Footsoldier (2007), Cass (2008), Awaydays (2009) and Love's own remake of The Firm (2009), and now Arrivederci Millwall is looking to introduce itself to a new generation as it comes to DVD for the very first time.
Adapted from the award-winning stage-play by Nicky Perry (who also writes the screenplay), Arrivederci Millwall is set in the build up to both the 1982 World Cup and the Falkland's War between the U.K. and Argentina. Leading the cast is Kevin O'Donohoe as Billy Jarvis, a hot-headed casual whose firm are scraping cash together in order to head over to Europe with ambitions to justify Millwall supporters’ feared reputation to the rest of the world. However, when his sailor brother Bobby is killed in the Falkland's racial tensions run high and the trip becomes an excuse for the ignorant Billy to launch a personal vendetta against the "dagoes" whom he blames for Bobby’s death.
As you can probably tell from the plot summary, Arrivederci Millwall is a pretty bleak film and serves as a damning indictment of the intolerance and fervent nationalism that was rampant in the early 80s. Director McDougall - who went on to carve a successful American career directing TV shows such as Sex and the City, Desperate Housewives and The Office - opts to avoid the path of glorifying the violence of the subculture in favour of delivering an interesting and authentic slice of social drama. In this regard the film works well although it’s a shame that, running at just 50-minutes, Arrivederci Millwall never quite manages to fully explore the potential of its characters. It also doesn’t leave an awful lot of room left over for action, which will likely disappoint those fans expecting plenty of good old-fashioned fisticuffs.
It’s taken over twenty years for Arrivederci Millwall to get a wide public release and although its legs aren’t what they used to be, the film still manages to show the odd glimpse of quality. The story and characters are engrossing, even if the film fails to build upon its early promise, and as a nostalgia piece it’s certainly worth checking out. Just don’t be fooled into thinking this is the Ryan Giggs of hooligan flicks. It’s more like the Dean Windass.
Movie Review Archive