Yup, it’s time for another gritty British movie about football hooligans. And while Cass fits that description, it’s still far more complex and encompassing than you would think at a first glance. First of all, it’s based on an incredible true story of the life of Cass Pennant, the first black man who led a hooligan firm in England. Secondly, as you might have already guessed, it explores racism and its horrible consequences. Thirdly, it paints a very vivid picture of not only how life was back then but also how football hooliganism became such an important issue.
I know it’s easy to just write it off as idiots wailing on each other in an alcohol-fueled rage but things are far more complex than that. Okay, not that complex but still. Eloquent and fully aware of what he’s doing, Cass is able to shed a light on a very intriguing topic. A topic that’s the manifestation of a society in deep trouble. You can look at the football hooligans as a symptom of a much bigger issue, exploring it in a sociological sense. Or you can just fully immerse yourself in this larger-than-life story that involves all these issues. I also urge you to look past the bit lower production values as the visuals are secondary here. They actually gave the movie this gritty and grimy vibe.
Adopted by an elderly white couple in 1958, Cass Pennant had a difficult childhood. Because the color of his skin was different he was bullied, beaten, and harassed by almost everyone. He was at least lucky enough to have two good friends who helped him to get through this difficult period. Tall, muscular, and incredibly strong, he soon joined the IFC, one of the most notorious hooligan groups in England.
As soon as Cass started, I started thinking that I’ve already seen it. And then it dawned on me, the plot is incredibly similar to another British crime movie from the same fucking year! Clubbed is also based on a true story, following Geoff Thompson and his adventures as a club bouncer. And it’s happening at roughly the same time as Cass. There are several important differences but there are also several eerily similar events that I don’t know what to think about. Except that perhaps both of the authors have the same book publisher.
Nonso Anozie was fucking phenomenal as Cass and showed that apart from his imposing physique he has a lot of skill and talent when it comes to acting. His simmering and yet very intelligent performance made this movie that much better. Of course, we have obligatory Tamer Hassan to add more intensity and the rest of the crew was also solid. Pay special attention to the fights as most of them got out of hand pretty quickly. The “actors” were actually almost exclusively members of various underground groups with just a couple of real stuntmen. When you add beer to that mix, things can get tricky fairly easily.
To reduce Cass to another movie about football hooligans would be a mistake. This is a story of a kid who managed to get himself out of pretty bad circumstances through sheer will and determination. Cass also shows that there was a time when these sorts of brawls were not related to crime. Finally, if you’re looking for similar movies, I recommend you check out I.D., a phenomenal thriller about an undercover cop who went too deep. And if you want to know more about Inter City Firm, check out the 1989 movie simply titled The Firm starring young Gary Oldman.
Director: Jon S. Baird
Writers: Jon S. Baird, Cass Pennant, Mike Ridley
Cast: Nonso Anozie, Gavin Brocker, Leo Gregory, Natalie Press, Paul Kaye, Bronson Webb, Tamer Hassan
Fun Facts: Real Cass Pennant appears in one of the final scenes of the movie as one of the minders.