alan clarke Archives - Jeff Finley

The Firm (9/10)

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One of my favorite Alan Clarke films. The Firm is a 70 minute beating. It’s brutal. If you’ve seen other Clarke films, you know that he always casts at least one ultra badass character that nobody wants to mess with. And in this film, it’s no different. Gary Oldman stars as “Bexie”, the lead member of the Firm.

The premise of the story is fairly simple. Rival “firms” or gangs in the British Soccer Hooligan scene are in a never ending war against eachother. From start to finish I was sucked in. The dialogue is top notch and really convincing during the heated arugments. The violence was brutal, but sometimes obviously fake. There is one scene where there two gangs attack eachother and it looks like a lot of wind kicking and acting. But some of the other scenes are truly disturbing.

For example, this scene really got me. Bexie was talking on the phone and not paying attention to his toddler son. And the son was playing around with his father’s trademark weapon the “stanley knife” (similar to a box cutter). While the father is unaware, the child starts “brushing his teeth” with the knife and cutting himself all up. And the dad finally discovers and rushes to get it out. The mother comes in and the child is screaming. The mother and father get into a heated argument and it’s really one of the best scenes I’ve ever seen on film before.

There are countless others, but Alan Clarke keeps true to his style. The characters are truly intimidating. Look for this film on Netflix because that’s the only place you’ll find it easily.

Elephant – 6/10

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Not to be confused with the Gus Van Sant film of the same name , Alan Clarke directed this mostly experimental film in 1989. At only 39 minutes, Elephant is a quick one. There is no music and almost no dialogue.

This film is mainly about the random killings in Northern Ireland. I know nothing about them, so I can’t comment on how historically valid it is. One thing is for sure though, the cinematography was beautiful. I wish I could have access to some of the dirty and unoccupied buildings in which the killings took place. Here is the main setup to the film: Follow an unnamed character around for a while, watch him shoot a seemingly random person, and then walk away. Do that about 18 times and you have Elephant.

The killings aren’t realistic. There is no struggling, screaming, pain, etc. The victims simply just fall to the ground still. And the killings are done in a methodical manner. It’s quick and painless, so it seems.

And there is no explanation of the murders. It is what it is. If you’ve seen the Van Sant film, then you’ll recognize the long tracking shots behind character’s heads. It still follows the same brutal aesthetic as Alan Clarke’s other films. But with a lot less drama. I wasn’t sucked into this film as much as his others. I appreciated his experiment though.