Monday, 10 May 2010

No.32 : The Club

Here’s an oldie but a goodie from 1980. I saw this a few times on late night BBC2 and it always raised a smile so let’s see if it still hits the mark or whether its ‘Goliath Awaits’ all over again.

‘The Club’ is Collingwood, an Australian Rules Football team that’s living on its former glories. In a bid to get back to the top they sign Jeff for what is seemingly a high figure of A$120,000. The rest of the team quickly take against him when he plays a stinker and soon the manager and the board are at each other’s throats.

With Jeff on the dope and giving up on football the chairman is forced out after hitting a stripper and the rest of the board scheme to get the manager out. With a fearsome new manager lined up the guys come together to try and win the championship and save the manager and the spirit of the club.

‘The Club’ started life as a stage play and that’s pretty clear when you see how many scenes simply involve the characters all talking and mostly fighting with each other. Some films like this can be a bit dull but like ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ this fair crackles along with great characters and brilliant dialogue.

The Aussie Rules sport itself isn’t explained at all and it’s not always clear who’s doing what and who’s winning. That said the game scenes are excellent and obviously filmed in front of a real 100,000+ crowd - they must have laid on free beer.

The best character for me is the scheming Jock played by Frank Wilson who’s a petty and conniving old git. He does have all the best lines however and a great scene with Jeff where after being plied with drugs fully takes in his star’s confession of incest, a gullibleness that later comes back to haunt him.

The rest of the cast are great too with perennial Aussie star Jack Thompson taking centre stage as the volatile coach who tries to hang onto the club’s traditions as the money men start to take over. I also like the slimy chairman played by Graham Kennedy who slowly loses power to the plotters on the board.

If I had a criticism I felt that Jeff’s transformation from pariah to saviour was a bit sudden but I suppose they argue that the coming together was to face a common enemy. The ending itself was a bit rushed with the players agreeing to knuckle down one minute and then playing in the championship match literally a minute later.

The film gave a great sense of the passing of the guard and the transition from aplayer who played for the jersey giving way to the ones with dollar signs in their eyes. Scenes of the club’s glory days were skilfully recreated and the action was always running at full pelt.

I’m sure ‘The Club’ will resonate soundly with anyone who’s ever sat on a committee or board and dealt with all the petty self interests that stop anything actually getting done. All in all it’s a funny, all action sports movie with great characters and a great script.

THE Tag Line : Join The Club 77%

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