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The Damned United (9/10)
by Tony Medley
Run time: 98 Minutes.
OK for children.
Prospectively, this looks as if it would have
little market in the United States.
It’s about soccer, which has been soundly rejected as a spectator sport
by the American public. As a result, not many people know about the game
and very few would know who Leeds United is or was or whatever.
But this film is about Brian Clough’s doomed 44 day
tenure as manager of the reigning champions of English football (with a
reputation akin to The New York Yankees, Boston Celtics, and Pittsburgh
Steelers in their respective sports).
It’s basically the story of how the rivalry between
two men deeply affected Clough (Michael Sheen) when he got the big break
of replacing Don Revie (Colm Meaney) as the Manager of Leeds United in
The reason the film is so entertaining is that the
acting is superb, especially Michael Sheen and Timothy Spall, who plays
Peter Taylor, Clough’s assistant manager and best friend. But Meaney is
terrific as the overbearing Revie and Jim Broadbent gives his usual
outstanding performance as Clough’s boss, Sam Longson.
My impression of soccer is that it’s a non-contact
sport and not very brutal. Most of the action in the film is taken from
actual game footage, and some of it is pretty rough (but nothing like
what you see in an American football game, or in any rugby game, for
that matter). I thought that they tried to make the game a lot more
physical than it really is, but the man sitting next to me coached
children’s soccer and said that it really is rough. I’m not convinced.
I’ve seen enough soccer to know that it’s mainly running up and down the
field with a little contact, which the players always make seem it’s a
lot more damaging than it really is.
It will be hard for Americans to identify with how
seriously Brits take their football. Even so, this is a film that
doesn’t, and shouldn’t, rely on the sport itself for its success. What
it really is, is a story about one man, Clough, and the vendetta he
created for himself in his own head with Don Revie. This is a very