When I.D. was released in 1995, it built on the football hooligan genre begun by Alan Clarke with The Firm. 21 years later, and in perfect timing with the ugly behaviour of supporters during the Euros, I.D.2: Shadwell Army lands.
There’s no necessity to pick up where the previous film left off, but many actors do return, and the fictional Shadwell Town F.C. are back in the premiership with games taking place across Europe in this instalment.
Purposefully re-treading many of the same paths of I.D., Shadwell Army places us back in the East of London as an unknown Muslim man is searched by police. It is unnecessarily blunt and rude, forcing the man to remove his shoes on the cold tarmac as his friends laugh at him nearby. But the joke’s on us as the man is a British police officer, undercover. Mo (Simon Rivers) has been tasked to infiltrate the football fans of Shadwell Town F.C. and he’s nervous. He’s young and inexperienced, and he turns to an ex-Police Officer turned unsuccessful-comic (Perry Fenwick) for advice. To get in the group, Mo will have to adapt his entire personality and drink, fight and fuck “like a dog” to be welcomed into the violent gang that supports the local team. But his new found friends lead him to the top brass (including Linus Roache) of extreme right-wing groups and Mo begins to lose himself in this macho, drug-fuelled environment.
The drive behind I.D. was clear-cut: John was a football fan who’s lured by the community, bravado and pride of the fans he befriends. When you feed into the story the extreme politics of the EDL and the conflicts of poverty-stricken multi-cultural communities of London, the themes become muddied. There is a sense that, though holding good intentions, Shadwell Army isn’t trying to inform. Instead, it takes real, sensitive social issues and turns them into a bit of lad’s fun. To make matters worse, over the course of the entire film, the boys never actually get into a stadium until a brief moment in the finale. For a football hooligan film to lack any football is an unexpected misstep. Surely, their attitude to the game could be what defines their true character.
While a throwaway line, almost passing as a joke, nods toward the issues facing men in 2016, there’s no attempt at shining the spotlight on how broken so many men are today. The biggest killer of men between 18 and 50 is suicide. The lost place of strong, silent men, venting their anger via sport and comradery, is a real issue that could’ve pulled ID2 into the 21st century (a theme that would’ve slotted easily in Danny Boy and Nick’s plot here). Though right-wing wing movements are rising up across the world, this particular branch of EDL in ID2 feels dated. Whispering in hushed tones in shadowy corners, the flat characters hold simplistic intentions. The depth of This is England, for example, deconstructs where extremist attitudes in working-class communities could be bred from.
ID2: Shadwell Army is a confusing, missed opportunity. In the wake of Brexit, whereby racist attacks have increased and a lack of an effective opposition means Conservative policies move ahead unchallenged, this could’ve lifted the lid on the flaws in British society. Multi-culturalism, especially in London, has become an example to the rest of the world (e.g Sadiq Khan, the first “actively affiliated Muslim to become mayor of a major Western capital”). If Shadwell Army was released soon after ID, in 1995, it might’ve resonated. In 2016, it seems awfully out of touch with current issues and therefore lacks the punch it desperately needs.
This review was originally published on Flickering Myth