7.5 out of 10

Release Date:4th June 2010

Director: Lindy Heymann

Cast: Kerrie Hayes, Nichola Burley and Jamie Doyle

Writer: Leigh Campbell

Trailer: KICKS


For anyone wondering where all the ‘good’ Liverpool based writers of the 80s and early 90s have gone, here’s a reminder of the those works of yore.  When Willy Russell, Alan Bleasdale and Jimmy McGovern based their tales in Liverpool, they created a collection great dramas.   So it’s heartening to see a genuine  return with Kicks. It benefits from featuring very real identifiable Liverpudlians in an unusual tale set against a backdrop of recognisable city landmarks.  Kicks is really evocative of the city’s people and places, the attitudes and the past-times.  Nicole (KERRIE HAYES – TRAVELLER) is a teenage Liverpool Football Club fan. She has an unrealistic but harmless obsession with current striker and golden boy Lee Cassidy (JAMIE DOYLE).  Waiting below his apartment block window and peeking through cracks in the wall at the practice grounds, her one-sided love affair seems likely that  it will go unrewarded.  At a city game, whilst waiting for the players to leave the ground, she  befriends Jasmine (NICHOLA BURLEY – STREETDANCE), who desires to become attached to Lee, or any footballer in fact, romantically.  Jasmine takes Nicole around some of the city clubs where footballers are likely to show up in the VIP rooms.  In turn, Nicole invites her into her secret and solitary world.  A former hideout of a long deployed Military brother becomes their HQ where they hatch fantasies about their favourite footballer.  On hearing the news that Lee is to transfer to Spain at the end of the season they endeavour to get him to change his mind, but how?

Kicks wins because of a pair of winning performances from Hayes and Burley.  Hayes is new to me and she is thoroughly convincing as the sensitive yet tough Nicole.  Burley’s Jasmine is more fun but shows steel beneath her goofy exterior.  Their hideout is a holiday caravan inexplicably perched at the edge of a dock on the Mersey. The empty river always in shot.  It serves as an escape from the drudgery of daily life.  Responsible adults are in short supply, with Nicole’s mother represented by post-it notes or a discarded Nurse’s uniform.  The considerably richer Jasmine’s nouveau-riche family are in crises too with a sex tramp of a father and brassy mother.  Their encounter with Lee comes late in the game.  He’s sketched into the story deftly through snatched glimpses through a hole in the wall or a radio announcement.  When it’s announced that he will be transferring to a Spanish football team next season the girls are genuinely upset, so when they do finally get to meet him they don’t quite know what to do with him.

This is where the plot gets interesting. Although, Lee’s character is predictably drawn and he turns out to be all we’ve been led to expect from premier league footballers in the tabloids, it’s the plot that surprises.  The girls keep us on our toes and situation which sees Lee return to the girl’s HQ could go anywhere.  The slim running time doesn’t let the grass grow under their feet and the outcome is satisfying.  Their may be some grumbles from those that expect operatics but in the end at least two of the protagonists will walk away from the events wiser and perhaps a lot smarter.  Being played by older actresses, you have to remind yourself that Hayes and Burley are playing 15 year olds. That’s the only criticism I can angle at the film but it’s a light one.  But this does not detract from the fact that Kicks is one of the best films to come out of Liverpool since Terence Davies’ introspective documentary about the city Of Time And The City in 2005.

7.5 out of 10 – Kicks is very small-scale but at the same time realistic and captivating.  Two excellent performances from the two leads and a great sense of time and place make it a worthwhile watch. At face value it sells a predictable plot but the outcome is unexpected so without turning genre cliches on their heads, the film proves to a be an important coming-of-age tale for modern teenagers.  It’s a good crack at a football fan movie too that shies away from the usual tropes of hooliganism and violence. Recommended (if you can find the DVD!)

** Read a second review by seasoned ‘wooly back’ Matt Usher aka Joe Pesci II BELOW



One thought on “KICKS

  1. KICKS – review by Matt Usher

    Kids today! With their silly celebrity obsessions and phones and false sense of entitlement! If they watch KICKS they might reassess a few of those values but I doubt it grumble grump grumble. KICKS is a film about dumb teenage girls, a dumb footballer, and the dumbness of the celebrity age, so I’m probably not in its target audience. But that perfectly accurate description is also perfectly inaccurate as well. It’s also a sensitive film about the fragility of dreams and the gap between dreams and reality. Either way, I didn’t like it much.

    Kerrie Hayes plays Nicole, a fifteen year old in Liverpool with a lonely home life and a perfectly normal obsession with a Liverpool football player. Well, it starts off as a perfectly normal obsession, but this is a film so it all gets a bit disturbing. She spends most of her time trying to stalk the footballer in question, who goes by the name of Lee Cassidy, which may be the most footballerish name ever invented (and who is played, when we eventually meet him, with a mix of prettiness and dullness by Jamie Doyle). Nicole meets Jasmine (Nichola Burley – a bit better than usual), who is a rich kid and who lives in the same area of Liverpool as the ‘hero’ of THE CREW (an insanely dreary thriller which I’ll be reviewing soon), and who thinks she has serious WAG potential. Soon our chalk-and-cheese heroines are sneaking into the club their hero frequents, then they find themselves in his garage, and eventually they even meet him. But then it turns out that he wants to leave the club (the football club not the drinking/dancing/drug-taking club) and our heroines are understandably distraught. They decide to take practical action to try to stop him from going, and they whisk him off to a newly redecorated hovel and have it out with him. It all ends in tears.

    Kerrie Hayes (who seemed set for great things after appearing in a now long-forgotten TV series called Lilies then seemed to vanish) is particularly good – although she may not look fifteen she certainly shines in the whole naïve, dim, optimistic, damaged sort of way. Nichola Burley is better here than in the other films I’ve seen her in (the awful PAYBACK SEASON and the lamentable 28K) but I’m sure there are better actresses around. Nevertheless they work well together as a team. Jamie Doyle goes through the motions as the footballer, poker-faced for the most part, but a poker-face which hides a tedious vacuum rather than a fascinating character. He really does seem to be playing a character that is woefully one-dimensional (though hopefully that’s the point), but he seems to be doing it in a woefully one-dimensional way. He just seemed a bit bored with the whole thing.

    I hope KICKS is based on an urban legend, because I’d quite like it to be sort-of true. (No footballer would admit to being kidnapped by teenage girls, but it could be fun to speculate about but obviously not in print as those footballers have good lawyers.) But there’s something about the film which doesn’t ring true. In one sense it plays out quite credibly: the two girls have a very vague notion which turns into a plan without them thinking about it, and it all ends up as a complete mess as it probably would in real life. It’s just that the whole kicking-in of the plot in the last third (or so) of the film feels like it’s been shoehorned in, more out of necessity to get a story in rather than through any actual narrative necessity. In other words, it would have been more interesting to see them imagine doing what they do than actually doing it. Even as it becomes apparent what they’re going to do, you’re imploring them through the screen ‘don’t do it! No good will come of this – your film which is currently a diverting exploration of the loneliness of youth is about to topple over into a silly melodrama which it isn’t prepared for!’

    KICKS seems to be two different films simultaneously, which means that neither approach ends up working. On the one hand it’s like one of those sensitive coming-of-age films that debut directors like to make, full of moody shots and atmospheric lighting and ten minutes between lines of dialogue whilst we contemplate the urban wasteland or look at a shot of a building reflected in water. On the other hand it’s a celeb-satire-cum-thriller, with unlikely plot lurches and coincidences, the sort of thing debut writers might write to get stuff out of their system. In the end it feels as if writer and director didn’t work together and the director just made the film she wanted to make anyway. Which is fair enough, as the film hits the eye a lot better than it hits the ear. KICKS is beautifully directed; there are a lot of great shots, and some excellently chosen locations which emphasise the various contradictions of Liverpool as a modern / old / friendly / forbidding city (though did they have to include a ‘girls-doing-tidying-up’ montage?). As a lonely Liverpool film, KICKS works quite well. But there’s not enough of that. In the end KICKS (whose deceptively clever title has at least three applications in the film) gets stuck by not knowing what it wants to be.

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