0.5 out of 10

Release Date: 13th April 2015 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Steven M Smith (Haunted 5 / Haunted 4 / Haunted 3 / Haunted 2 / Borstal / Invasion Earth I Am Hooligan / Essex Boys – Laws of Survival / Haunted (2013)) and Chris Bell

Cast: Chris Bell, Alan Lund, Ross Boatman, Sam Brown, Danny Howard, Colin Burt Vidler, Pat Garner, Jon-Paul Gates, Dean Martins and Eddie Webber (narrator)

Writer: Chris Bell & Steven M Smith

maxresdefaultHooligans At War is probably the sloppiest and most amateur entry into the cannon of UK gangster movies I’m yet to see.  Underpowered and embarrassingly slack, it attempts to come at the genre from a new perspective but beyond making a lazy comparison between the violent lives of British soldiers and football hooligans it fails on all fronts. The film falls into just about every trap that low budget filmmakers are prone to drop into. Productions this cheap often require the producers and directors to double up as actors – whether through vanity or necessity this route rarely proves to be successful. Acting is a tough and pressured gig, so to be torn between making your dream film in the two weeks you’ve managed to get off from your day job, putting in a dynamic performance and ensuring everything else on your sprawling epic runs smoothly, it’s a real miracle if your end product will end up half watchable. The scale of Hooligans At War is pretty wide and ambitious considering the level of resources the makers had at their disposal, so from the ‘off’ they’ve bitten off a lot more than their miserable gobs can chew. The story flits between flashbacks in the theatre of war (or a field near Dagenham) and the present day where ex-soldiers Northy (CHRIS BELL) and Southy (ALAN LUND) resume their places (with little opposition) as top dogs of their respective football / crime firms of north and south London. A particular heist tears the two comrades apart to little effect. And the bodies pile up (slowly).

The movie trundles from one badly-acted scene to the next with little rhyme or reason – the plot is straight-forward but it still manages to get crucial aspects wrong. The use of a typed introduction to every single last location is a major irritation, as we wait for each letter to be keyed in – this also occurs with locations that the story has previously visited at least six times. Also pity poor Eddie Webber (THE FIRM) who does his best Alan Ford impression as an unseen narrator who introduces a procession of minor characters who only feature long enough to be introduced. Someone somewhere thought that this addition would be funny and act as a decent story aid, it wasn’t. It’s pointless and embarrassing to watch. Everyone involved, even the professionals like Ross Boatman (LONDON’S BURNING) and the aforementioned Eddie Webber should have ran the opposite direction when the script landed on their desk. It’s truly bad. The poster / DVD cover art is about as professional as the whole affair ever gets. If the cover had been drawn in crayons that would have given you a better idea of the quality to expect.

Hooligans At War even makes Looters Shooters and Sawn-Off Shooters look like a deluxe and professional production. With a really basic plot (just terrible) , a very abrupt, laughably corny and shit ending we have the worst UK Hooligan / Gangster movie to grace the UK film industry to date. Britpic hopes that actor / director Chris Bell spent all his money on this turd as it may well stop him from commiting anymore crimes against film lovers.  The notorious and infamous actor/producer Simon Phillips (JESUS VS MESSIAH) is one of the producers on this I see.  We think he got credit for letting them use one of his favourite words in the title ‘Hooligan’.  The makers couldn’t afford to use the words ‘rise’ or ‘fall’.

0.5 out of 10 – Truly abysmal in every way. It’s scary how amateurish a film can be and still get a national DVD release. Vanity projects have never been made to look so bad.

ed’s note: Some months later Britpic discovers that these guys have made yet another Landrover / Essex Boys movie called Essex Boys: Law of Survival.  Next we’ve got Essex Boys: Return on Investment (ROI)….


Now check out Joe Pesci II’s opinion of Hooligans At War – where he invents the term ‘Hooligangster‘ – see below.




  1. review by Joe Pesci II

    I have immense admiration for anyone who has the commitment and enthusiasm to get a film made. I have even more admiration for those who then look at their film and say ‘this is unfit for human consumption and should be kept away from the public forever’. And that’s almost what happened here, but then the film-makers were corrupted with promises of money and success (just like in the film – life imitating art!) and they gave in (who wouldn’t?) and allowed a pet project to go naked into the harsh glare of the movie market. Now, let’s be honest, a film called HOOLIGANS AT WAR NORTH VS SOUTH was never going to be the most high-falutin’ film ever made. But even fans of the hooligan movie (hooligenre?) have standards (presumably really low ones seeing as RISE AND FALL OF A WHITE COLLAR HOOLIGAN is the genre’s pinnacle). This film is substandard. It should not have been released. The makers should have chalked it up to experience and moved on, ideally as far away from film-making equipment as they could get.

    The DVD blurb says the story revolves around two men who go to fight in the Bosnian war (more than a decade after it finished) then return to London to find their places in the hooligangster pecking order have been usurped. The blurb says we see them regain their rightful places, then fall out over money and power.

    Whoever wrote the blurb did not watch the film.

    We do enjoy some Bosnian flashbacks (very obviously filmed in a farm and field in Essex) (were they making a point about how conflicts occur not in strange, terrible places but in ordinary everyday ones?). But most of the film is set in the present day, our two heroes happily ensconced as gang leaders. There is no struggle to regain their top-dog status. Or if there was it got cut. Instead the plot, such as it is, sees a lorry robbery go wrong when the more impulsive of our heroes shoots the driver. One of them scarpers with the cash. Meanwhile another gangooligan wants to make territorial advances, but mostly he beats up bald thugs in drably staged road rage incidents. The film, not particularly coherent anyway, disintegrates towards the end, with a conclusion so lamentable, rushed and obvious that you can’t believe they actually had the gumption to do it.

    Boringly, I believe films should have characters, plot and clarity. All are absent. As is colour (honestly you’ll remember this film – if at all – as being in black and white, the colour grading is that bad) (unless it’s a subtle stylistic choice) (which seems unlikely). I did wonder if it was meant to be an atmospheric, impressionistic evocation of life for the common-or-garden gangstooligan soldier, a life full of confusion, violence and an almost defiant yet endearing unwillingness to construct sentences without multiple expletives (were the actors on a profanity-based bonus scheme?). The truth surely is that this is a film where a bunch of pals got together to act out bits of their favourite films (or possibly their private fantasies) without being particularly interested in what an audience might make of it. Which is fine so long as you don’t let an audience near it. Oops.

    Others have criticised this film for the quality of the filming and sound, suggesting it was all filmed on a phone. But this is nothing to complain about: from what we can discern it’s clear no sparkling or insightful dialogue is being muffled, no beautifully observed performances are being obscured. We should be grateful the film is coated in this cloak of obscurity – we can imagine that some of it is much better or more interesting than it is.

    The film is merrily awash with ageing clichés. Numerous ‘characters’ are introduced by Eddie Webber’s voice-over, the frame freezing so we can lock face and background into our memories, though most of those so introduced are not seen again; indeed, at least one of them has no dialogue and no part in the plot (it’s the bent copper – was he one of the film-makers’ dads?). And then there’s the very slowly typed X-Files style captions indicating every location. For some reason the pub (a distinctive location and a base for most of the cast – even those on different sides) is introduced this way three or four times. Even when the caption doesn’t appear, the camera captures the pub’s sign*. Elsewhere our hero reminisces about his late mother: these scenes have a nostalgic haze framing the shot as she lovingly (and in great detail) prepares crispy pancakes, beans and chips. It’s either meant to be touchingly sincere (in which case it fails, the directors not realising that this filming style is about 70 years out of date) or is meant to be some sort of send-up. I’m genuinely not sure which.

    Chris Bell and Alan Lund are our stars. Both are OK, though Lund has little to do other than be a shouty thug. Bell has a long monologue where he lauds his dim pal to the skies. It’s not a great speech but he delivers it with uncompelling conviction. (He also co-directs this atrocity; more interesting is Coupled, a short film which is a much more accomplished piece of work, albeit one which in Freudian terms arguably exposes him as a raging misanthropist. It’s on Youtube.)

    Surprisingly the acting isn’t the problem. Lots of bald thugs mope about swearing and hitting each other convincingly enough. Meanwhile their lady folk mope about saying how their bald thug’s bald thug pals/enemies aren’t worth it. There’s no great acting on view, but no-one stands out as being unusually awful like Ewen Ross or Paul TT Easter.

    But Bosnia. Nothing can excuse the terrible air of lackadaisical carelessness that suffuses these scenes. Even HE WHO DARES has more credible soldiers. A scene where they all have to drop swiftly to the ground plays more like something from Dad’s Army as the actors respond (obviously to a cue), some of them dropping instantaneously, others looking for a nice spot to lie down, others seemingly having back trouble. At another point the camera pans ominously to the ground as the soldiers march past. Is the camera going to show us a tripwire or a mine or a sniper in the distance? No, it just shows us boots as they march past. Elsewhere our heroes’ sergeant tells them off for their bickering, bickering which – and this is their sergeant talking in Bosnia – prevents them from being really brilliant hooligans in London. What?

    One can only admire (or wonder at) the chutzpah of anyone who thought this could be sold to the general public. It’s one thing to make a film for fun, or to get to grips with the nuts and bolts of film-making. And it’s one thing to upload it for free. But this has been released commercially on DVD. People of the world be warned (particularly if you’re fans of war / gangster / hooligan films)! This is not a film you should spend money on! Even if you like hoolifilms!

    Personally I blame Simon Phillips.

    PS This film, like most hooligan films, contains no football hooliganism.

    * The Ship Aground in Bermondsey

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