90 Minutes review – football caper is a goalless draw

Produced by Rio Ferdinand, this story of a rough-and-tumble weekend league descends into an aimless kickabout

A decade on from teaming Danny Dyer, 50 Cent and Brenda Blethyn for 2009’s bargain-bin circler Dead Man Running, Rio Ferdinand re-enters the world of lowish-budget film production with a quasi-real time drama centred on those lads and lasses (mostly lads) drawn to the rough-and-tumble of the Hackney Marshes’ weekend leagues. Yet despite the title’s ticking clock, writer-director Simon Baker’s mud-bound mosaic exhibits a shambling quality that suggests a slacker Slacker, passing the ball from character to character without ever quite doing anything especially interesting with it. An hour in, two spectators – in an echo of those ads for McCain’s – start pondering whether it’s chips for tea. Play is rather shruggingly abandoned at the 86-minute mark. One way or another, you emerge short-changed.

Baker does deserve some credit for wrong-footing us. A prevalence of lairy geezers in the opening scenes establishes expectations of another casual crime story, yet what follows operates in an insistently minor, observational key. These blokes are all talk in short trousers, scrapping it out only on the pitch while communing in that musky banter (“Shave your fuckin’ balls, lads – Magaluf, ’ere we come!”) which doubtless goes over like gangbusters in the back row of the minibus. The DVD, when it emerges, could conceivably be repackaged with a Lynx Africa gift set.

Still, viewers drawn here by the footballing connection will probably be those most disappointed by the lack of straightforward action. Baker cuts all this dialogue with negligible non-highlight packages of skied crosses and shinned chances. Ferdinand nabs himself a funny cameo, seen shooting the breeze with Jody Morris during one of several lulls in play. Anton Saunders is a credibly grizzled presence as the coach incurring major aggro on the touchlines, while the squad’s younger talent have to make do with showreel-bound snippets that don’t add up to a movie.

This is an oddly likable film, with attractive aerial photography of the Marshes themselves, and its mazy narrative dribbles bringing it within touching distance of a better film. With Chelsea money and a few more drafts, Baker might have arrived at a match-day fresco that merited the Altman comparisons he surely set out for. As it stands, it just feels underdeveloped: too rooted in humdrum, hungover Sunday-morning reality to justify even this fleeting theatrical runout.

Contributor

Mike McCahill

The GuardianTramp

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