Film / The Football Factory

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"There's nothing different 'bout me. I'm just another bored male pushing 30 in a dead-end job who lives for the weekend — casual sex, watered-down lager, heavily-cut drugs ... and occasionally, kicking the fuck out of someone."
Tommy Johnson

The Football Factory is a 2004 British film, based on the award-winning 1996 novel of the same name by John King, which was the first story of the Football Factory trilogy. It stars Danny Dyer, Frank Harper, Tamer Hassan, Neil Maskell, Dudley Sutton and Roland Manookian, and was directed by Nick Love.

The novel series centres around the extreme fans of Association Football, mostly the obsessed fans of British Footy Teams, to the point of forming large gangs (called "firms") in their neighbourhoods to seek out and attack fans of rival teams. Late-20s lowlife Tommy Johnson (Danny Dyer) is a member of a firm that supports Chelsea FC, and is desperate to get himself out of the lifestyle, despite his enjoyment of womanizing, cocaine and supporting his favourite team every week.

He struggles to try and escape it due to the persistence of the firm firm deputy leader Billy Bright (Frank Harper), whose life seems to be falling apart as much as Tommy's, and his best friend Rod (Neil Maskell), who shows no sign of being as damaged as the people around him. Johnson is convinced to give it up by his veteran grandfather Bill Farrell (Dudley Sutton), who plans to move to Australia with his best friend Albert, but cannot escape because of his depression over Albert's death and his grandson's wild and illegal activities.

After getting into a few bar brawls, Tommy realises that it's time to leave the hooliganism behind, but an outburst with the son of Millwall firm leader Fred (Tamer Hassan) leaves him in Millwall's wanted books. He also has to look out for the impressionable teenagers Zeberdee (Roland Manookian) and Raff (Calum McNab), who desperately want to be members of the Chelsea firm.

The Football Factory is somewhat of a cult classic to some, often being the Ur-Example of hooliganism and fanclub extremism in British soccer, along with The Firm and Green Street. The film led to having a spin-off documentary series called The Real Football Factories, in which a few actors from the movie visit areas around Europe that have similar football firms and fans like in this movie.

Meanwhile, the book series has two other stories in the same universe: Headhunters and England Away, which began the story of five other football-mad fans, who then meet with Tommy and the Chelsea firm to watch England play against Germany.

Tropes in the movie include:

  • 0% Approval Rating: The most-hated firm is Stoke City, and sometimes Millwall. This is sort-of Truth in Television with most of the England soccer teams' worldwide fanbase, due to both FC's fans' history of violence and other misbehaviour.
  • Acrofatic: Most of the men in the firms are either pot-bellied, chunky or really skinny, yet they can run and fight people like athletes.
  • Adapted Out:
    • In the novel, the head of Chelsea's firm was a black man, nicknamed Black Paul, much to the annoyance of Billy. In the movie, it's a chubby white man called Harris that sits in a dimly-lit room with five other people, playing poker in dirty suits and overcoats.
    • Tommy and Rod had much more friends that they partied with.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: A couple of characters in the movie are completely different in the novel.
    • Billy was an orphan who had rage issues throughout his child, and has racist and extreme xenophobic views — shown through the annoyance of having a black man being in charge of his firm. He wasn't married with children and had a broken arm.
    • Rod has sex with a stripper and is constantly mocked for being a single man. In the movie, he is desperate to find a girlfriend and secretly goes to match-making conventions.
  • Adorkable: Rod — seen mostly through his matchmaking scenes.
  • Aerith and Bob: Bill, Billy, Rod, Fred, Raff ... and Zeberdee?
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: There are many scenes of the fans smoking in pubs and trains stations. In 2005, a law was passed that banned people from smoking in public places to stop the spread of passive smoking.
  • Bald of Awesome: Billy and Harris. All the people in the Chelsea firm underneath them all have hair.
  • Bandaged Face: The kid that appears in Tommy's nightmare. Then it's revealed to be Zeberdee with a wound in his right temple.
  • Bathroom Stall of Overheard Insults: Although not in a bathroom stall, when doing a line of cocaine by the urinals, Billy overhears a conversation from a room next door through the air vents. It's a meeting with Harris (the actual head of the Chelsea firm) and his other team members, who are moaning about Billy's disgusting behaviour and mouthy attitude, and suggest demoting him or throwing him out of the group.
  • Bar Brawl: Tommy and Rod get into one with Millwall FC fans that catch them celebrating over the announcements of Chelsea being qualified for The FA Cup.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Tommy has stubble in most of his appearances on screen, probably to reflect how terrible his personal life is. Funnily enough, the people that arguably have a worse life than him have managed to use a razor every day.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Bill cannot stand racism and snaps at all the characters that make prejudice and discriminative remarks. Zeberdee and Raff's taunts and racial slurs at a Sikh father and son on the bus makes Bill so mad, he screams at them and then has a heart attack. This is also why he loathes Harris and Billy Bright.
      Tommy: But Bill, Harris looks up to you because you were in the army.
      Bill: What he doesn't understand is that the reason I was at the front-line was to fight fascists like him. And that Billy Bright is an idiot.
    • Billy jumps on Fred after being accused of being a domestic abuser to his wife. He also hates being bullied about his weight.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Billy's sons. They probably learnt their anti-social behaviour from their father.
  • Butt Monkey: Zeberdee to Billy, mostly because Billy is jealous that he's not Zeb's role model.
  • Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: The quiet leader of Chelsea's firm Harris, vs the loud-mouthed lower-authority Billy.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: After discovering that Zeberdee and Raff broke into his house, and stole his phone, Billy drags them back to his home and makes his two sons throw real darts at them to make them confess. Some of them actually stick in their bodies.
  • Country Matters: A lot of this.
  • Dad the Veteran: Bill, who was one of the soldiers that fought at Normandy on D-Day.
  • Description Cut: After the announcement of Chelsea and Millwall playing each other in the FA Cup, at the Chelsea/Millwall Youth Team match, Tommy's voice over says that Billy and Fred have settled their difference in order to be dignified in front of their children. Cue the two men hurling insults, taunting, and even wrestling on the pitch.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Tommy, despite getting getting a kick out of his gangster-like life. Ironically, the firms were created for fans because of this trope.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Firms seem to be portrayed as a Mafia-like business, with every member becoming a spy, attacking rival fans they've caught, and even murdering them. In the movie, Chelsea firm leader Harris is sitting in a dark room with five other people, smoking and gambling, talking about people in his firm that he doesn't like, much like a don.
  • Driver of a Black Cab: A Running Gag shows the characters being driven around London by a taxi driver that makes controversial and racist comments throughout the journey, before being yelled at to shut up by the passengers for being annoying.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: It's hard to believe that men who want fans of other football teams dead, are either married, have children, or even look after vulnerable relatives.
  • Football Hooligans: Call it Football Hooligans: The Movie.
  • Foreshadowing: Tommy's recurring dream of being battered by Stoke City fans. When he is left to die, a person with a bandaged face finds him and asks to help him. On the third time of the dream, the figure removes their bandage to reveal themselves to be Zeberdee with a large bloody cut in the side of his head.
  • Gilligan Cut: When getting ready to board the Chelsea fans' coach to watch the team play Liverpool FC, Tommy's voiceover says that he hopes to get some sleep on the long journey to the stadium. Cue the next scene full of drunken misbehaviour, loud beer toastings, singing football chants and cocaine abuse.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Bill, on the count that he's a lonely widower with hooligans Rod and Tommy as friends. He hopes to leave England to live in Australia.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Billy always seems to be annoyed or grumpy over something, and the level just increases more and more whenever Fred taunts about their teams possibly playing each other in The FA Cup.
  • Henpecked Husband: When Rod officially gets a girlfriend, he becomes this towards her. This annoys Tommy.
    Tommy: Why is it when your friend gets a girlfriend, he acts like he's only known you for ten seconds?
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: Billy, after overhearing Harris and his team moan about his anti-social behaviour.
  • Hypocrite: Fred accuses Billy of this. The two men agreed to combine companies in order for Billy to regain financial stability, but Billy is xenophobic towards people of Fred's race.
    Fred: Well how's it feel doing business with a Turk, when you're supposed to be right-wing?
  • Joins to Fit In: Teenagers Zeberdee and Raff are desperate to be part of the Chelsea firm, and do crazy things, such as breaking into a house (later found out to be Billy's) and attacking a Yardie trying to sell items to children at a playground.
  • London Gangster: Practically every character in the Chelsea and Millwall gangs.
  • Lovable Rogue: Billy. He constantly breaks the law, but seems too likeable to be seen as terrifying (that is if you're on the right side of him).
    Judge: Billy Bright, you're almost forty years old and you seem to break the law persistently. I've seen children behave better than you.
    Billy: [crossly] Whachoo fucking say?
    Judge: [tightly] Don't you use that insolent tone with me, you fat fucking slob!
    (Billy lashes out and is restrained by security)
  • Meaningful Name: Zeberdee got his nickname because he is a drug addict. Considering that he's named after a character from The Magic Roundabout that was half-man half-spring, he is probably hyperactive when he's high.
  • Oh Crap!: Usually occurred when fans from certain firms are outnumbered when they spot rivals in the street.
    • When Rod cheers for Chelsea in a nightclub after hearing that the team's going to play against Millwall FC, about five men turn and glare at him and Tommy in digust. Cue both men being chased down the high street.
    • After seeing Chelsea play in the North, Billy spots about four rival fans shopping in a nearby petrol station. He, Tommy and Rod duck behind a car and crawl through the car park in order to get past them. They stupidly ambush the four men, and all of them are arrested for anti-social behaviour.
  • One Steve Limit: Billy is the head of the Chelsea firm, whereas Bill is the World War Two veteran.
  • Oop North: A Chelsea soccer match takes place in the north, in which the Chelsea firm chase away wild northern teenagers.
  • Papa Wolf: Fred, who wants Tommy dead after an encounter that leaves his son knocked unconscious with a baseball bat.
  • Point-and-Laugh Show: The series is portrayed as this to the extreme. The supporters' exaggerated Serious Business attitude of trying to be the fans of the best team in the country/Europe, to the point of attacking outnumbered "rivals" in the street and even hiding when they see a small group of men, is practically laughable. It's probably a Take That to sports' supporters who take the game too seriously.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: "Hello ... Zeberdee..."
  • Race Lift: There was an obvious racial divide in the novels, especially with the Millwall and Chelsea fans: the Millwall fans were mostly Middle-Eastern Britons, whereas the Chelsea fans were all white, but in the movie, both sides have fans of different ethnicities (although Chelsea's side is harder to notice).
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Billy and Fred work alongside each other in a garden centre.
  • Recurring Dreams: Whenever Tommy blacks out, he dreams of being attacked in the street by a rival firm and left for dead, being discovered by a young man with a bandaged face.
  • Refrain from Assuming: Anyone would think from the title that this movie (and book series) is about FIFA or football club, but it's actually about the extremism of European soccer fans.
  • Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: Even though they're not rock stars, being in a hooligan firm is portrayed as a wild life full of women, pumping yourself full of euphoric drugs, and getting into clubs with the best DJs around.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: There are a couple of them in this movie. The most notable one is given to Tommy by a former firm member that currently works at a florist, who tells him that he's almost 30 and shouldn't be breaking the law continuously.
  • Those Two Guys:
    • Tommy and Rod.
    • Zeberdee and Raff.
    • Bill and Albert, before the sudden death of Albert.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Zeberdee and Raff in order to get into Billy's good books.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: When eventually hooking up with a stranger, Rod's new girlfriend points out that his hooligan friends were a bad influence on his behaviour and makes him promise that he'll never hang out with them again.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The end of the film shows plaques of how the characters ended up. Notably:
    • Billy is jailed for seven years after being caught at the Chelsea/Millwall meet, ironically due to saving Chelsea firm boss Harris from being arrested. If he served his full sentence, he would've been released in 2003.
    • Referring to the point above, Harris gets away with instigating the meet.
    • Although turning out healthy after the Chelsea/Millwall riot, Zeberdee is shot by the Yardie he attacked in the restrooms of the pub. He doesn't survive.
    • Bill eventually emigrates to Australia.
    • Tommy decides to stay in the firm, realising that it's all he has to live for.
  • Villains Out Shopping: When they're not meeting up to support their favourite soccer teams, the members of the Millwall and Chelsea firms spend their weekdays working at petrol stations, car washes and garden centres. Sometimes, working alongside each other!
  • Volleying Insults: Fred and Billy, in an infamous scene next to their children's football game.
  • You and What Army?: Being in the middle of nowhere in the North of England, Zeberdee and Raff are caught by a gang of about eight northern Manchester United fans, who chase them down the motorway when they realise they're supporting Chelsea. The two boys manage to get far enough to catch up with the Chelsea coach, which stops to let out the Chelsea firm, who chases the northern boys away.
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