Sunday, 20 December 2009
Rule #8 If this is your first night at Fight Club, you have to fight.
November 1979. Margaret Thatcher had been elected several months earlier, and already the gloomy outlook was already edging towards pitch black.
So, what's a boy to do in times like these? We had our music, which spewed out a ton of exciting bands and we also had our great national game. Football. For me, this particular obsession-bordering-on-religion kicked in around 1968, and led to me travelling the length and breadth of the country, following my local team. It was pretty much the same for the disaffected youth in Pat Holden's AWAYDAYS.
Based on Kevin Sampson's cult novel, AWAYDAYS drags us into the organised - often disorganised - world of football violence, focusing on 'The Pack': a small gang of Merseyside youths who actively seek confrontation with firms from other parts of the country.
Opening with a graveside family gathering, AWAYDAYS quickly moves into flashback mode, going back some three months earlier to a fight at a match, where onlookers include teenage Carty (Nick Bell) and his father. Carty is determined to become a member of this 'elite' club, and sees his chance after bumping into Pack member Elvis (Liam Boyle) at a gig.
Despite Elvis' warning that 'The Pack' are way out of his league, Carty elects to get himself noticed by participating in some savage fighting; an act that leads to a serious beating from a rival mob.
Although Carty is initially welcomed with open arms by the Pack leader, jealousy soon rears its ugly head, with potentially fatal repercussions.
With a plethora of violent scenes - including the cowardly use of stanley knives - AWAYDAYS packs pretty much the amount of punch one would expect from a film centering on football violence, though it's far from being a mindless hooligan flick.
Here, you'll find a film that captures the bleakness of '70s Britain where friendships buckle and break under the strain of everyday life and death. Check out the scene where Carty first enters Elvis' pad and is confronted by a noose hanging from the ceiling: "An everyday reminder of the absurdity of life and the absolute certainty of death. Heavy stuff, and yet an accurate depiction of the despair felt by many who turned their backs on a harsh political regime and simply waited for Saturday to come around.
While many will find AWAYDAYS to be a thoroughly depressing affair, those who engaged in terrace warfare will recognise a series of snapshots capturing how things were, and the two lead actors benefit from Holden's unjudgemental direction to deliver performances laced with anger and an understandable sense of unease.
While football violence has seen a decline for the last several years, firms still exist and attempt to evade the authorities crackdown by organising fights via mobile phones.
Just like the characters in this film, they don't appreciate bright lights in dark places.