KICKING OFF

3.5 out of 10

Release Date: 25th April 2016 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Matt Wilde

Cast: Warren Brown, Greg McHugh, Alistair Petrie, Danielle Bux, Bailey Patrick, Jon-Paul Gates, Robbie Savage, Mark Bright and Geoff Hurst

Writer: Robert Farquhar

Trailer: KICKING OFF

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Kicking Off has a lot of energy. It has two central performances full of energy and a great supporting turn from Alistair Petrie (VENDETTA), so why does Kicking Off stink as a comedy?  Most of all it’s written by a person who has no idea how footballers behave int he real world, so we’ve got cartoon characters who are dealt very ‘heavy’ plot cards like suicide attempts, extreme violence and relationship woes. So we have slapstick, cheeky chappies and then a massive dose of Christian dogma dropped into the mix.

Wigsy (WARREN BROWN – LUTHER) and Cliffy (GREG MCHUGH – MARVELLOUS) kidnap a football ref, Greaves (Petrie) after he disallows a crucial goal. The stupid, semi-psychotic, comic book hooligan Wigsy runs the whole gamut of eye popping, yelling football chants to an empty church, jumping into rivers, becoming a born again Christian and also wanting fame and fortune for being a kidnapper. Meanwhile Cliffy looks on but doesn’t have the smarts to save him or talk him out of his mission. Petrie is wonderful as the put upon hostage, who almost escapes by making them believe they’ll get to heaven if they free him.

It has more action, and energy than a dozen brit-pics and about the same number of good line, but it’s wildly erratic in tone making it hard to sympathise or understand where one minute we’re laughing at a stupid character only to see him kick the person who’s playing the joke on him half-to-death. The christian sermon half-way through is a bit much too, as its as if its been smuggled in in order to brainwash a few football fans who watched this because they thought it was a hooligan flick. Hence the DVD decoration, complete with St George flags. This is the 2nd hooligan film where the church has turned up at an inopportune moment – the other was Blood Feud. I wonder whether this is a Christian initiative in low-budget film making. “Forgive them for they know not what they do…” is one of Greaves lines and I think this extends to the filmmakers who tried to pack too much into what would have worked as a simple comedy but got to big for its boot too early on. Shame as the writer does show (at times) that he has a good ear for comic dialogue.

3.5 out of 10 – Potentially good football comedy that dispenses the funny stuff for a trip to church, and has some pretty odd subjects to deal with like suicide and a penchant for violence. Uneven.

Another review below by Matt Usher

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One thought on “KICKING OFF

  1. Review by Matt ‘The Ref’ Usher….

    Now that the important football tournament has finished (well done to the triumphant winners! Hurrah to whoever it was that won whatever the trophy was) I thought I’d finally get round to reviewing this really weird film about football fans. But then again, football fans are weird. And at least this is a low budget British football-related film which is refreshingly hooligan free. But it does have a football fan who’s a violently sadistic psychotic kidnapper instead. Swings and roundabouts.

    It’s the day of the very big match! Cliff and Wigsy are down the pub cheering on their team as it battles to avoid relegation / seeks promotion at the last minute / tries to win the cup (definitely one of those). The team scores a goal and all are jubilant! But only for a moment, a moment during which the film-makers do a special effect which has all the extras in the pub standing still like they’re playing statues. Because, at the end of the moment, the referee ‘disallows’ the goal! Consternation in the pub! Wigsy and Cliff, having imbibed too much alcohol hatch a plan as cunning and stupid as any Baldrick ever dreamt up.

    But they’re just drunken footie fans letting off steam, so nothing comes of it.

    Or at least, that’s how Cliff sees it. Alas he is summoned next day to Wigsy’s abode to discover that Wigsy has carried out his crazy drunken scheme and abducted the offending referee, and here he is, bound, gagged and awaiting his fate!

    Our heroes panic and we briefly go through the usual comedy kidnap motions (which generally involve the hostage needing to perform motions) before the film begins to run out of ideas. In the film’s only attempt at satire, Wigsy becomes an urban folk hero, the man who dared to do what so many others had only ever dreamt of (really, do that many disappointed football fans dream of getting drunk then dragging the ref back to their house?). Meanwhile, after a few lacklustre escapes and recaptures, and lots of arguments, the reluctant trio somehow end up in a derelict church where Wigsy has a curious argument with the Almighty and unleashes his inner thug.

    Ultimately the film ends in a mass of whimsy, conspiracy theory, and people running on the spot, which is a shame because it starts very promisingly and with (by Britpic standards) a whirl of energy. But the energy becomes frenetic then just hectoring, and the film becomes (not unlike those of the affiliated hooligan genre) a festival of profane shouting, enervatingly repeating itself, disappearing into an ever decreasing circle and a non-climax in a canal near Regent’s Park. Which is a shame because it’s quite a good conceit, but the film-makers quickly run out of ideas. This could have made an excellent episode of a sitcom, or the film-makers could have gone down a different route and turned it into some sort of very black farce. Instead it ends up being an incredibly uneven nothing of a film, with segues into not particularly well-argued theological debate, and moments of violence which seem out of kilter with the bouncy bonhomie of the earlier parts of the film. (I’m not saying it shouldn’t have done either of those things, just that the way it does them is incredibly uncertain and it feels more like the film-makers were desperately flinging ideas about to justify the running time rather than telling a story.)

    The film’s gimmick is to have (mostly) Greg McHugh talk to camera, Alfie-style; as the film progresses some others poke their oar in. McHugh plays Cliff the likeable lunk who (not unlike Nick Frost) provides low-key humour and is the film’s main anchor to reality. Meanwhile Wigsy is essayed by Warren Brown charmlessly and irritatingly. I liked Alistair Petrie as the droll ref (who’s also an intellectual – he reads a book in one scene), but he’s tied up so tight he is unable to steal any scenes, which is surely the whole point of such a character. In order to provide a gloss of verisimilitude the film crowbars Geoff Hurst (which obviously brought back fond memories of that halcyon evening when I saw him in the abysmal PAYBACK SEASON) and Robbie Savage into a dream sequence, whilst former ‘WAG’ Danielle Bux provides decoration as Wigsy’s improbable ex.

    But the oddest thing about this odd film (apart from its self-consciousness, lack of focus and uncertain tone) is its attitude to football. Now, obviously, keen observers of the hooligenre will know that football is but an optional extra appended to tales of crime and ice-cream. But KICKING OFF is different. It’s actually about football. In theory. After all, even the title refers to the game as well as the chaos of the narrative. It’s just that … I got the impression no-one involved actually knows anything about football. How else to explain a cameo from someone called Mark Bright? More than that though, there seems to be an odd lack of footballingness to proceedings. No-one in the fiercely partisan pub seems to be sporting a scarf or woolly hat in their team’s sacred colours. The team does not seem to have a name (or if it did I’ve forgotten it – apologies if I’m misleading). It’s as if those involved hadn’t quite thought things through properly.

    This is not an error Edgar Wright would have made. And this is definitely a film made in the Wright mould. Except Wright and his regular collaborator Simon Pegg would have ensured their affection for the geeky background to the film would have been properly referenced and integrated. Or maybe I just missed it. But whereas films like FEVER PITCH and even UNITED WE FALL use football both as background and subject, here it’s just hanging about, unwanted almost. So KICKING OFF is a frustrating oddity which could and should have been so much better. It ends up perhaps best aimed at people who aren’t keen on football. Or films.

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