Director: Matt Wilde
Cast: Warren Brown, Greg McHugh, Alistair Petrie
Watch Kicking off online in the UK: Sky Cinema / NOW TV / iTunes / Amazon Instant Video / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play
“Life doesn’t always turn out the way we want it to. You have to find something that takes the edge off things. Mine is football.” Kicking Off begins with the kind of generic voice over you’d expect to kick off a feel-good British comedy. But Matt Wilde’s indie flick, which won Best UK Feature at last year’s Raindance Film Festival, isn’t afraid to embrace convention – or move beyond it.
The film follows Wigsy (Brown) and Cliff (McHugh), Wigsy’s mate. One of them is pining for his ex-girlfriend. The other is tired of being described as “Wigsy’s mate”. Both of them are mad about football. That madness comes into focus when their team loses a crucial match and gets relegated. The reason? A disallowed goal, decided by the referee (Alistair Petrie as the brilliantly named Anthony Greaves). So Wigsy does the natural thing any sane person would: he kidnaps him.
It’s a neat idea and the central duo run with it up and down the pitch. Warren Brown is admirably intense as the devoted fan, too busy yelling to listen to sense, while McHugh makes for an endearingly generous foil. The reveal of the act itself is laugh-out-loud funny, prompting an amusingly incompetent chase through the streets. It’s a shame, then, that Robert Farquhar’s script briefly enters stoppage time halfway through, as it tries to find a way to fill its 85 minutes: a detour to a church is coupled with a subplot about religion that draws an interesting parallel between faith and fandom, but feels clumsily introduced – one character is mocked for their faith, before it’s even been mentioned – while a dream sequence mostly exists to allow for a enjoyable cameo. Danielle Bux, meanwhile, doesn’t get much to do as Wigsy’s former partner, Philippa – although she gets the best football-related putdown in the whole film.
But, true to form, this is a movie of two halves: for every minor substitute from the genre bench, there’s an inspired lob or a free kick that curves past your expectations. An early set piece in a bar is eye-openingly brilliant – a visual marvel that singles out director Matt Wilde as a successor to Edgar Wright – while Farquhar’s use of narration is delightfully witty, combining split-screen and McHugh’s knack for under-delivering lines to land some crowd-pleasing guffaws. If the end result feels like a conventional follow-up to The Full Monty, though, there’s nothing wrong with that: despite any minor injuries, Kicking Off is a British comedy that really knows how to make an audience feel good.
Kicking Off is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW TV, as part of a £9.99 Sky Cinema Month Pass subscription – with a 14-day free trial.
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