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It’s understandable that Elijah Wood should want to atone for being a hobbit. But starring in a ball-busting urban flick punctuated by flying streams of blood and obscenity? Perhaps not a good idea for someone whose range doesn’t extend much beyond dazed innocence—though that does make him the ideal Henry James– ian heroine for Green Street Hooligans, a graphic portrait of the violence flourishing at the edges of English football. Wood plays Matt Buckner, a wrongfully expelled Harvard senior who escapes to the London home of his married sister (Claire Forlani) and falls under the sway of her charismatic brother-in-law, Pete (Charlie Hunnam), the ringleader of a West End football gang, or “firm.” “You don’t run,” declares Pete, “not when you’re with us. You stand your ground and fight.” Before one o’ the boys can say “bollocks bullshit,” Matt is throwing haymakers and butting heads—and, oh yeah, losing his moral compass. “I don’t know where my home is anymore,” he insists. Actually, home is the same old Alphaville, where men hurt each other just to feel something. And if you think the tour will be any different with a female guide, think again. Director and co-writer Lexi Alexander, a former karate and kickboxing champ, has staged her fight sequences with an eye for the well-placed boot and an ear cocked for the crunching bone. She’s also assembled a powerful posse of street warriors. (Leo Gregory and Geoff Bell are particular standouts as a reluctant traitor and a vengeful father.) But her film is less interested in why these guys fight than in the lessons that may supposedly be derived from their fighting. Built along an arc of martyrdom, Green Street Hooligans is no more sociologically complex than West Side Story—and indeed, the absurd finale, with its slow-mo rivers of blood and the Bono-like cadences of Terence Jay consecrating every black eye, might make you long for a little “Maria.” By the time Matt goes home and opens up some whupass on the ex-roomie who got him expelled, he’s learned “what no Ivy League school in the world could teach me.” Here’s what I learned: It’s one thing to approach gang violence as art appreciation; it’s another to turn it into a core curriculum. That’s bollocks bullshit, if you’ll pardon my English. —Louis Bayard