CASS Directed by Jon S Baird. Starring Nonso Anozie, Nathalie Press, Leo Gregory, Gavin Brocker, Tamer Hassan, Ralph Ineson 16 cert, Screen, Dublin, 108 min
DIRECTED by the producer of Green Street, this workmanlike British drama constitutes one more unwelcome addition to the perplexing genre that is the hoolie movie. Each of the batch of recent films dealing with English football violence has tended to edge its protagonist away from hooliganism and towards a settled life.
This is right and proper, but one suspects the films’ enormous sales on DVD are driven less by a desire to see Biffer bath the baby than an urge to watch the same fellow drive sharpened screwdrivers into closely cropped skulls.
To be fair, Cass, which is adapted from a memoir by former West Ham thug Cass Pennant, is more responsible than Green Street or The Football Factory, and features a genuinely touching lead performance from Nonso Anozie.
The story follows its hero, an Afro-Caribbean child adopted by salt-of-the-earth East Enders, as he attempts to fit in with the dysfunctional nation that was England in the 1970s. Eventually he becomes accepted into the Inter City Firm, West Ham’s travelling mob, and, after slapping his way out of a few scrapes, rises to become one of its leaders.
Period ambience is summoned up by blasting out The Israelites. Cass’s sense of racial isolation is conveyed when he tries to wash away his blackness with carbolic. You know the sort of thing.
The film features only one excessively violent sequence, but the film-makers’ (not quite sneaking) admiration for the hooligans’ logistical gifts and dedication to their task is never in much doubt.
Whereas works such as Alan Clarke’s The Firm and Shane Meadows’s recent This Is England got to grips with the obscene thrill that can accompany recreational hatred, Cass appears to view its subjects as little more than naughty boys in need of a good talking to. It really is time to blow the whistle on this squalid genre.
Cass (Nonso Anozie, centre) and his crew