A wrongly expelled Harvard journalism student travels to England and becomes involved with the Green Street Elite (GSE), a notorious â€śfirmâ€ť for Londonâ€™s West Ham football club. There, he befriends the charismatic leader of the GSE and learns not to be a pansy.
Elijah Wood, Misunderstood
Most reviews of Lexi Alexanderâ€™s Green Street tend to focus on Elijah Woodâ€™s performance as Matt â€śthe Yankâ€ť Buckner. This is unfair. Not only does it take away from the vibrant performance of Charlie Hunnam as Pete Dunham, but it leads to the dismissal of Green Street as an empty film — a definite mistake. Neil Smith of the BBC perhaps sums up this critical opinion best when he writes:
â€śElijah Wood [is a] a pint-sized, baby-faced actor who makes the least plausible hooligan in cinema history.â€ť
Such a criticism betrays a serious misunderstanding of the film. Not only does Elijah Woodâ€™s boyishness enable Alexander show how groups like the GSE attract their members from a wide spectrum of classes but — more importantly — it shows that it is precisely â€śgirly guys" like Woodâ€™s Matt Buckner who find themselves most attracted to groups of organized violence. Emasculated by their lives (jobs, girlfriends, wives, society) they seek any outlet they can find which allows them to express their masculinity.
â€śI Believe in a Ball and Two Posts, Amen.â€ť
Bill Durodie, the director of the international centre for security analysis at King's College London, has the following to say:
â€śAnd a society that believes in nothing is particularly frightened by people who believe in anything, and, therefore, we label those people as fundamentalists or fanatics, and they have much greater purchase in terms of the fear that they instil in society than they truly deserve.â€ť
I think this can be fruitfully applied to Green Street, and to the filmâ€™s depiction of the GSE. Because for every blow the film strikes against the GSE, former kickboxing champion Alexander smacks a roundhouse to the face of society. Green Street doesnâ€™t glorify violence; it glorifies standing for something.
Like one of the characters in the film mentions, the GSE is not a typical gang because it neither uses firearms nor engages in street crime. And the violence that does occur, while intense and often brutal, stays within the firms. Therefore, the GSE isnâ€™t a physical threat to â€śnormalâ€ť society. Instead, what â€śnormalâ€ť society finds threatening is the idea that the GSE believes in something. At a time when traditional boundaries (between genders, between religions, between countries, between cultures) are being erased and society is heading toward globalization and [at least superficial] equality, any sort of atomization is viewed with fear and contempt.