Nonso Anozie in Cass (2008)

Becoming a Man

Having been adopted by an elderly white couple in London, Jamaican born Carol "Cass" finds his childhood full of racism as he is taunted by other children because of the colour of his skin until one day as a ten year old he snapped and hit back. Hitting back is what happened as a 14 year old during the 70s when as a West Ham supporter he ended up with other supporters fighting a bunch of rivals and all of a sudden he found he was accepted, part of a gang where his skin colour didn't define him as much as it once had. A decade later and Cass had gone from being part of the gang to being a leader, organizing the supporters to stage war against rivals leading him to be come one of the most feared and respect men in London but also one who has done time. But that all changes when he met Elaine (Natalie Press) as he settled down and started doing nightclub security except his past is never far behind and on a night in Deptford in 1993 he finds himself staring down the barrel of a gun.

I was fortunate enough never to experience first hand the football violence which regularly made headlines during the 70s and 80s, the closest I came to anything like that was a child in a service station with my parents and a fight broke out between biker gangs and it is one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. The reason I mentioned this is because movies which take us back to the times of football hooliganism are often bemoaned for not being completely authentic when it comes to the representation of violence and I wouldn't want them to be as we don't need to see it to understand how terrifying it was back then.

Natalie Press in Cass (2008)

That brings me to "Cass" which is the story of Cass Pennant who as the synopsis mentioned became a feared leader of a group of West Ham hooligans during the 80s and as such we see some football violence. But as other reviewers point out "Cass" doesn't fully recreate the violence of those days which I am grateful of as it doesn't need to. In fact the scenes of violence it shows are enough to illustrate what life was like as a football fan in those days and the use of archive footage of violence at games is enough to make it real.

But you see "Cass" is more than just showing what it was like to be a football hooligan this is the story of Cass Pennant and alongside the football violence we have his views on Thatcher's 80s and as he puts it the uniformed hooliganism of the police against the striking miners. But we also see the racism which he encountered right from a young age and in many ways this is more powerful than the violence, listening to the sort of comments which Cass would hear is sickening. Plus of course this all builds to what happened in 1993 and the shooting which lead to him assessing where his life was going.

What this all boils down to is that "Cass" is a good movie with it doing a respectful job of telling a man's life without glorifying the violence which was a huge part of it. It probably will disappoint those who watch hoping for the violence to be more authentic but alongside the racism which is shown it is still a very powerful and uncomfortable experience.