Directed by: Matt Wilde
Starring: Warren Brown, Greg McHugh, Alistair Petrie
Despite an unrivalled position as the world’s favourite sport, football continues to translate poorly to film. Fans have to make do with a vanishingly small collection of watchable efforts. British comedy Kicking Off is the latest attempt to weave a plot based around the obsessional hold the sport has on so many, and like nearly all predecessors, it fails horribly.
Robert Farquhar’s screenplay, directed by Matt Wilde, follows the efforts of Wigsy (Warren Brown) and his best mate Cliff (Greg McHugh) as they take an unorthodox approach to dealing with disappointment. When his beloved team, after a season of cock-ups, loses the relegation showdown, Wigsy takes matters into his own hands by kidnapping the referee (Alistair Petrie). There’s some vague plan about getting him to recant on his decision to disallow a goal Wigsy fervently believes to have been legitimate, and a bit of light fantasising about being made into a hero by his fellow fans, but really he’s just winging in.His slightly more hesitant friend Cliff, awakened from a drunken stupor, is also roped in, sending the duo on a turgid journey across town as they attempt to work out what on earth two people are supposed to do with a bound and gagged referee in the back of a rubbish strewn white van.
Badged as a comedy, and with little going on in the way of narrative drive, Kicking Off lives or dies on the strength of its jokes. Sadly, last rites are called for almost immediately. Most of the humour comes from shouted conversations between Wigsy and Cliff, the two reaching escalating levels of confusion as they yell back and forth. In lieu of witty dialogue, there’s swearing and gimmicks. Cliff constantly breaks the fourth wall to provide uninteresting asides that are welcome only because it stops the shouting.On the presentation side plenty of unnecessary tricks are wheeled out. Split-screens, freeze frames, jump-cuts, flashbacks, dream sequences and switches into black and white all make their way in. None of it works for long, only managing to distract from the tedium for a few seconds until overuse becomes the problem itself.
Along the way, there’s a half-hearted attempt to get at the obsession football inspires, and the briefest of brief detours into Wigsy’s failed relationship, but the feeling of drift can’t be avoided. A couple of footballing names also find themselves roped in for cameos. The sight of Sir Geoff Hurst popping up only makes the whole thing seem more depressing. Very few decent films have been made about football. This terrible effort doesn’t change that.