Lately, Elijah Wood has been very busy trying to establish himself as an actor apart from his role as Frodo in the obsessively popular Lord of the Rings phenomenon. Portraying peculiar supporting characters in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Sin City, and Spy Kids 3-D, he's definitely made a valiant effort. He continues with Green Street Hooligans, this time attempting to play a tough guy. This is a first for Wood... and, hopefully, a last.
Originally titled just Hooligans, the film begins as a Harvard journalism student named Matt (Wood) is wrongfully expelled. To escape from his father's judgment, he jumps aboard a plane headed to London to visit his sister (Claire Forlani) and her husband Steve (Marc Warren). Almost immediately -- maybe out of rebellion, maybe out of curiosity -- he ditches sis and her hubby to hit the local pubs and football games (soccer for Americans) with Steve's irresponsible brother, Pete (Charlie Hunnam), and his band of hard-edged, hooligan friends.
Normally a quiet and reserved bloke, Matt is shocked to find himself at home in Pete's world -- and Pete's world is a rough place. English gangs -- called firms -- encourage their local football teams by throwing obscenely violent brawls with their rivals. Before he realizes what's happening, Matt finds himself smack dab in the middle of Pete's firm. At first, he's reluctant to fight, but once he begins to participate in the fights, Matt discovers that he can throw quite the punch, and deliver a wicked head butt. Hell, maybe this is what he needed all those years: The freedom to kick ass!
Reportedly, this kind of underground chaos does circle professional sports in England. It seems that Hooligans was made to expose to the pubic what's really happening in poverty-ridden United Kingdom. It succeeds -- I had no idea disadvantaged British youth were so directionless, vicious, and addicted to sports. In its unoriginal, self-important way, the movie shows that everybody needs something to stand up for. But the only thing these characters have to stand up for is jersey-wearing athletes kicking balls into string nets.
Green Street harbors solid acting, no doubt, from the supporting cast and, most notably, Charlie Hunnam. He failed to impress with his work in Abandon or Nicholas Nickleby, but here he delivers a surprising, knockout performance. Physically, the actor is not a brooding, intimidating figure like his character on screen. With what he doesn't possess in physical presence, Hunnam makes up with threatening, hard-edged attitude. He is -- simply put -- perfection.
Elijah Wood, however, is unable to do the same. Playing against type can open new doors in an actor's career or slam on the breaks, and Wood's "tough guy" train just came to a screeching halt. Granted, the point of Green Street is to show how a measly bookworm makes the transition to streetwise hooligan. But Wood doesn't pull it off at all. The quirky, "odd duck" stamina Wood normally brings to his characters shines through, despite his attempts to hold it back. Kudos to Wood for challenging himself in the role, but let's hope doesn't do it again.
Even if Elijah Wood's role were recast, however, Green Street Hooligans still wouldn't be interesting or exciting. The characters rush aimlessly from one street fight to another, without rhyme or reason or intelligence. Yes, the film is showing what the British underground firm world -- or whatever you want to call it -- is really like. But that doesn't make for an engaging story. The plot drags and drags, almost entirely absent of tension. Imagine Selma Blair sporting a double-D bra. It's that taut.
Not in the hair!