Judge Josh Rode wonders how European quarterbacks can throw spirals with those round footballs.
It is quite fitting that One Night in Turin is about football (note to Americans: "football" in this context means "soccer") because the show is set up very much like a football match; there is a lot of build up and very little payoff. It is exactly like watching a match with several corners and crossing attempts that ends in a 0-0 draw.
For instance, the English team takes a break between early matches and everyone uses the break to relax except for Paul Gascoigne, or "Gaz"; he has so much energy that he plays tennis with tourists for the entire day off. The narrator warns him to take it easy. There is little doubt in the viewer's mind that his reckless behavior is going to be a factor in the next match. Probably he'll be so worn out that he will run out of gas. But when the next match is shown, it makes no reference back to the tennis incident whatsoever, and no mention is made of Gaz being extra tired or inept or anything. The warning was a narrative red herring.
The same can be said for the match scenes. The film makes a big deal about Coach Bobby Robson switching to a new attack that creates space for the team's stars to do their collective thing, then shows shot after shot either missing the goal or getting caught by the goal keeper. A purported rigorous attack results in a 0-0 draw with Holland and 1-0 wins over their next two opponents.
This isn't really news. Football, hampered as it is by the ridiculous offside rule, is not a high-scoring game. The excitement it generates is similar to baseball; something might happen at any given moment, and for the true fans that anticipation is what keeps them hooked on the game. If this film had focused more on that aspect instead of making promises it couldn't keep, it would have been much more satisfying.
The team member who gets the most focus is Gaz. He is built up to be a superlative talent and the show goes into great detail about his potential, if only he would learn to play with the team. As the matches go on, he is talked about more and more; he seems to be doing well, he makes a great crossing pass to set up a goal, he nearly makes that shot, etc. And, at the crucial moment, in the shootout with Germany to get to the finals, it is Gaz who must make the penalty kick to keep England in it.
Except he misses. In fact, for all of Gaz's purported talent, he ends up scoring nary a goal in the entire tournament. And England does not even make it to the finals, let alone actually win the thing. For you American football fans, this film is akin to Sport's Illustrated trying to sell the season highlights of the team that lost the NFC Championship instead of the Super Bowl winner.
So, if the film is not about reliving the great triumph of winning the World Cup, what is the point?
The film's thesis is that "hooligans" were a huge problem before 1990. Before we examine this thesis further, it should be explained that hooligans in this context are not flash mobs of irritated fans; they are actually organized groups that support a particular team and show their support by beating up the opposing teams' fans. One Night in Turin tries to make the case that the 1990 World Cup run resulted in a precipitous drop in this cultural phenomenon, but it never makes a real connection between the two. It points out that everyone was happy that England went further than expected, but there is no talk about repentant hooligans who decide they've been idiots too long.
Instead, the film bases its case on the historical fact that hooliganism dropped off fairly sharply around 1990. However, that timing also happens to coincide with the enacting of the Football Spectators Act, which was put into law in 1989. This act was created specifically to crack down on sports hooligans. Which is the more likely cause of the decrease in hooliganism?
The extras actually do a better job of supporting the film's thesis than the film itself. A short interview with Pete Davies, who authored All Played Out, the book that inspired the film, presents his passionate views on the subject. And the commentary track gives director James Erskine and editor Robin Peters a more linear mode to communicate what they're trying to say. The only other extra is a behind the scenes featurette that explains how they tried to recreate an Italian summer from Newcastle in February.
The 1.33:1 video is a mix of archival footage and set shots designed to tie everything together, and the video quality is equally as mixed. There is some grain and pixilation but for the most part the picture is acceptable. Some of the added shots meant to bring home the tension (actors pretending to be hooligans interspersed with real shots of mobs; actors' legs kicking balls during footage of matches) don't fare well next to the real thing. The 2.0 Dolby stereo sound mostly consists of Gary Oldman narrating, and he has a fine voice that carries nicely. Overall, the film is directed and edited quite well.
If you're really into English football history circa 1990, this would be a good film to watch, as long as you're not expecting your team to win. If you're just looking for a little football fix, go to the nearest British themed pub and watch the Premiere League matches while downing a pint instead.
One Night in Turin is found guilty of theme manipulation and sentenced to probation and three year's community service.
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