Hooligans at War: North vs South movie full length review - Not the best film ever, but an interesting idea
Let me start by saying this is not a great movie, it isn't even a particularly good one, but it is quite entertaining and takes a potentially clichéd premise and adds an interesting new spin on it.
The colour grading is appalling, and is most likely the cause of some of the issues with the video quality and the effect doesn't look at all deliberate. I would genuinely preferred that they just left the video in its original colour than bleached it to the point of complete desaturation.
One of the problems with the film is that it introduces characters there that do not appear in the modern day scenes creating the feel of two different movies jammed together to make up the run time. Using the Guy Ritchie device of a freeze frame with a voice over introduction, we are introduced to pretty much every major and minor character that appears on screen, whether or not they are integral to the plot. The army scenes contain a pretty much completely different set of characters to the hooligan scenes and no real attempt has been made to shoot scenes that link the two periods together in any real way; Johnny and Chris' time in the army is never referenced in the hooligan scenes and, as mentioned, none of the army characters reappear in the modern day scenes. The simple device of adding a few hooligan scenes referencing Chris and Johnny's army years and maybe a few reappearing characters from that time would have really helped the film gel a lot better.
The hooligan part of the film has a coherent and funny story that, while not exactly original, has enough endearing characters and humour that is both self aware and self deprecating enough to show that the filmmakers are aware that they are not breaking new ground, but are having fun retreading the well worn paths of the London gang drama. The army scenes are an interesting addition, although they don't really have a particularly cohesive narrative, for example one scene sees the squaddies storming a barn for no established reason and others see them just wandering around aimlessly not making it clear what is going on. This part of the film could have done with more thought and more scripting (the army scenes feel disjointed and as if the director just threw a load of unrelated ideas at the screen to see what would stick) but still adds an interesting new dimension to the otherwise standard premise.
Some of the acting is lamentable (notably Steven Smith, the co-director as Captain Hicks), but Chris Bell and Alan Lund manage to establish a realistic friendship/rivalry throughout the film. Lund is particularly impressive considering, prior to this film, he had not acted on screen before. Their on screen chemistry even salvages the army scenes and makes for entertaining watching, even when the plot seems lacking.
As for the directing, while Smith should know better having directed other films previously, this represents Chris Bell's first directorial effort and is a fantastic start. Is it going to win an Oscar? Of course not, but it is an endearing first attempt and the melding of the army worlds and London hooligan worlds is genuinely interesting; most London hooligan films focus on football hooliganism, but this one attempts to draw parallels between the bonds forged in combat and those maintained in the criminal underworld.
With a higher budget or a better director, this could have been a modern classic and redefined a genre, but, considering the resources on offer for the film, the production still managed to make something watchable even if it doesn't make the best sellers list.