Green Street Hooligans: A Misunderstood Love Story
- by Cherokee, 16 July 2015
If there is one thing in life I’m (depressingly) an expert on its trope-filled romantic movies. Nothing brings me more joy than watching star crossed lovers unite in clichéd situations - against all outward influences; against all odds. That’s why, when watching "Green Street Hooligans", the 2005 cult classic about Matt, a young wannabe journo who gets caught up with Pete, the leader of Green Street Elite, a London football gang, I couldn’t see anything but a tragic love story waiting to happen.
Two people from opposite ends of the world, with entirely different upbringings, form an unexpected and unbreakable bond that their friends and family will do anything to tear apart. The American and the Brit. Classic forbidden love shit, a Romeo and Juliet of our times. And that’s exactly what "Green Street Hooligans" is - a story of a couple falling in love, against a backdrop of unfortunate circumstances. So where does this illicit romance all start?
Everyone loves a bad boy (who treats you like shit at first, because they like you that much)
Matt, a former journalism student, travels to London to visit his sister, Shannon, after being set-up for drug possession by his cokehead roommate, subsequently getting him kicked out of Harvard University. He meets her husband, Steve, before his brother, Pete, makes an unexpected appearance. He’s the opposite of a suited-up city boy like Steve - Pete rolls with a dirty trench coat, battered and bruised face, fag dangling from his mouth and a number one cut shaved head. He’s the epitome of the ‘bad boy’, and it’s easy to see why Matt falls head over heels for his charms. The whole ‘treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen trope is well played out in romantic films and this is exactly how it starts off for Matt and Pete. The sexual tension is palpable between them - they lock eyes for a far longer time than a “who the fuck are you?” response would suggest. Pete is clearly curious about the sibling of his brother’s wife, a curiosity that Matt also extends to him. Their immediate attraction is cemented but it isn’t accepted – not quite yet, anyway.
Pete feigns annoyance about being lumbered with Matt when Steve has plans with Shannon. He’s hostile towards him and takes the piss out of his accent (which, coming from an apparently cockney man who can barely string a sentence together without sounding Australian, is a little rich). When Matt tries to kick Pete in the balls, he is quick to react - showing that he is the boss; he’s the man. How many romantic stories have started out with the leads having suspicious animosity towards one another because of a secret yet confusing attraction? The Notebook, probably the most recognised love story of the last 15 years, begins in a similar fashion. The same with Titanic, the romantic film of a generation. The testosterone amped-up emotions behind the scene only fuel the fire of longing. It tries to mask the sexual heat burning off the two and fails spectacularly.
Once Matt’s got a few beers (and a shot or two) down him at the pub, Pete starts to be more civil to his American relative. (Because booze makes it far more socially acceptable to touch other man and not have their masculinity questioned.) They chant West Ham’s club song, I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles, arm in arm with his mates. Everyone’s let go of their immediate reactions to Matt and slowly push aside their trepidations. Well, all bar one – Bovver, or Bov as he is nicknamed. And it stays that way for a lot of the film.
The jealous friend and unrequited love
His anger is his downfall. (Mate, didn’t you learn anything from Star Wars?) He couldn’t find the strength to look past his jealous-tinted view and see his actions caused a lot more harm than good. As Pete and Matt grew closer, becoming further inseparable, it just got worse and worse for Bov.
After watching his first live football match, a pumped Matt heads back to his sisters to leave Pete to go about his business. Matt, now on his own, quickly realises that he is being followed and makes a run for it. A group of guys that Bov pissed off earlier in the match are the ones chasing him and they quickly catch up. Before he is seriously hurt, Pete and his boys come to the rescue and a full-on fight wages. They manage to escape, Pete shielding Matt away from the worst of it. Then they face the same gang again and, this time, it’s up to Matt to hold his own. “Think of someone you really fucking hate”, Pete advises when Matt admits he doesn’t know how to fight. So he does. Jeremy Van Fucking Holden, his coked up former roomie. It works and he becomes something of legend.
“Tell me about it, stud” or how love consumes you and wipes you completely of your identity
Matt is like the Sandra to Pete’s Danny. The further he tumbles down the rabbit hole of obsessive love, he changes up his look - sports jackets zipped up to the chin, spiked short-ish hair and a perpetual fag hanging out of his mouth - and walks around with far more swagger. He’s a changed man and it’s obvious what, or more specifically who, is behind it. Pete becomes far more protective and cagey over his new interested partner. They don’t show too much emotion when they’re with others, but, behind closed doors and in the privacy of their own space, the laddish bravado is stripped away. Alone, they are just two people getting to know one another. Simple, no complications. No GSE or fighting or hate. Just them. Pete’s flat becomes a sanctuary and a place Matt quickly moves into. (Less than two days after they meet, if you were wondering.) It’s a passionate, overwhelming and consuming love that Matt and Pete welcome at the same time as being equally confused by its intensity.
Bov, unsurprisingly, is the only person to really comment on their new found relationship. “I mean, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were a couple of gay boys,” he retorts when Pete and Matt arrive together at the GSE’s local pub. This, ironically, is also widely regarded to be the same kind of remark a man struggling with his sexuality would say when faced with something that is all too familiar - feelings not resigned to the stereotypical masculine view.
Pete says very little in response to Bov, but the meaning behind what is said is far more important than anything else: “If you got a problem, then it’s your fucking problem. Not mine.” In so many words, he proclaimed it’s Matt he wants, not him. This tensions sets up what every tragic love story needs - betrayal. Bov, threatened by Matt and hurt by Pete’s rejection, switches on self-destruct mode. Anything humanly possible he is able to do to drive a wedge between Pete and Matt, he will, with disastrous consequences.
The ultimate betrayal and blinding love
Tommy Hatcher, the leader of the NTO, Millwall club’s football gang, is that disturbance for the young lovers. Bov knows this all too well. Tommy’s history with GSE goes way back and it’s more than just beef between an opposing team. It’s personal. A decade before, his 12 year old son was stamped to death by GSE members in a fatal fight between the NTO. He’s never gotten over it (naturally) but his anger has only worsened in time, boiling into murderous intent for the-then leader The Major, who turns out to be Pete’s brother Steve (plot twist).
Bov uses Tommy as a launch pad for his campaign against Matt, discovering further supposed ‘truths’ about their new anointed GSE member. Convinced Matt is an undercover journalist after one of the gang saw him at The Times, Bov tells Pete everything he knows. But he doesn’t believe him. In fact, he outright refuses to. Rational thinking is out of the window, only love leading his train of thought. It doesn’t matter that his friends, the same ones who love and care about him and have known him for years, are trying to warn him about his new ‘bestie’. Pete sees nothing but Matt.
It’s not until there is actual evidence - journals that Matt has been keeping on his laptop of his time in London, that Pete’s head becomes clearer. He and Bov, along with other guys in GSE, confront Matt down at the pub. You know Pete doesn’t want to hurt Matt - it’s the other guys that do the most damage. He still wants to believe Matt is the good guy. The liar revealed plot isn’t uncommon in romantic films, but the interesting thing about this side of the story is the double whammy of fake truths it reveals. Matt lied to Pete about what he was studying at Harvard (journalism, which the GSE made very well clear they frown upon as a profession because journos, in their words are “cunts”). Pete didn’t tell Bov that Matt and Shannon’s dad is a journo too, which, again, is practically sin in the GSE. (Fucking journalists, always ruining everything.)
A short-lived reunion that leads to heart-breaking devastation
Pete is quick to forgive Matt when he tells his side of the story. But their reunion isn’t for long. Feeling hurt and betrayed by Pete, Bov grasses up Steve’s whereabouts to Tommy down at the NTO’s boozer. The events that unfold after are catastrophic.
Steve (who was at the pub, trying to warn Matt about messing with the wrong crowd) is bottled in the neck by Tommy and nearly dies, Pete is fuming and wants revenge, and his relationship with Bov is in tatters. The one thing it doesn’t affect is Pete and Matt. Their bond is too strong to be rocked by anything. So I thought, at first.
Before the GSE’s fight with the NTO, Pete warns off Matt in what is their last proper heartfelt discussion.
“I don’t know where my home is anymore,” Matt cries, anguish brimming in his voice.
“I think we both know where it ain’t, mate,” Pete replies, catching eyes with his loved one before walking away, thinking this is the last time they’ll see each other. It’s devastating.
As the gang get ready, Matt is left waiting for his cab to the airport, anxiously smoking a fag. Shannon says he is doing the right thing, but he knows he isn’t. The person that has taught him so much, opened up his close-minded world to something lese and made him far happier than he has ever been is going to fight his nemesis, alone, without him.
Matt couldn’t let him do it, not on his own. In the film’s most romantic gesture, a montage ensues - Matt, running down the street in slow motion, with the music scoring the scene steadying into a crescendo as he neared Pete. The camera, focused on Pete flanked by his crew, pans up above him and zooms in on a breathless Matt. It’s like watching Pocahontas run to catch-up with the boat taking away a wounded John Smith. (Except, here, Matt is joining his John Smith, not waving him off to his death - though he might as well be.)
When Matt reaches Pete, they exchange a knowing, accepting nod. No words need to be said, no tears need to be shed. It is what it is. Then, they fight. In his final act of heroism, Pete risks his life to save Shannon and Matt’s from the villainous Tommy. They never had the chance to say goodbye, him and Matt.
Gone, but never forgotten
Pete’s death is a Shakespearian one. Lying, covered in blood, surrounded by friends and enemies. It’s the Montague’s and Capulets at it in East London, where no one comes out winning. “I would never have the chance to thank him”, Matt says over an obituary voice-over after Pete’s passing. “But I could live in a way that would honour him.”
Back in America, Matt, still repping GSE in full attire, gets his rightful own back on Jeremy, the rich kid that had him wrongly expelled from Harvard. In his triumph, he bursts out a one-man chant of I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles, a song which represents Matt and Pete in the same way Across the Stars does for Anakin and Padme, or My Heart Will Go On for Jack and Rose - it’s a timeless, romantic ode that encapsulates their misunderstood love. It’s the first song they sung together, and it’s the last that’s heard. It’s their song; a memory of the short time they shared downing pints and throwing about cheeky banter. It’s a reminder of them enjoying a fry-up after Matt’s first fight and sitting on Pete’s rooftop, away from the madness of both their lives, opening up to one another.
I’ve watched an utterly shameful amount of romantic films and Green Street Hooligans is one of them. Except, it isn’t looked as being one. All the broken noses and bloody faces can’t hide away from it. The forced macho-ness is just a veil concealing the true intentions of the film and the tragedy of one of this generation’s greatest, underrepresented loves - that of Matt and Pete.
Is "Green Street Hooligans" your favorite love story? Share your favorite parts in the comments!
Tagged: movies & TV.