Category Archives: Sport

Mr Holly on – The Fan (1996)

"The Fan" - (1996)

If The Fan was a baseball legend, it would be Barry Bonds. The film has various similarities with his stint at San Francisco, which include record-breaking contracts, shirt number confusion and of course, the Giants themselves.

This Tony Scott picture delivers a sleek first pitch followed by an unexpected knuckleball. Gil Renard (Robert De Niro (Goodfellas, 1990)), A down-on-his-luck knife salesman, goes round the twist whilst stalking his idol, baseball legend Bobby Rayburn (Wesley Snipes (Blade, 1998)).

With a Falling Down (1993)-esque feel, De Niro’s steady decline of realism is well played to the best he can. Snipes fits the bill as the arrogant player and it is probably his best performance alongside Murder at 1600 (1997). De Niro’s character stops at nothing to keep his idol’s credibility in check, to the point of no return following a bizarre jinx over Snipes losing his shirt number.

Unable to perform and hit, Rayburn’s frustration is felt, generating more tension than a fat mans belt buckle. This results in a complete meltdown from Renard. Renard’s patience is tested throughout the course of the flick. As neck-cracking and collar-pulling are not usually associated with De Niro’s persona since the early days, it was refreshing to experience another one of these roles from the acting hall-of-famer. Benicio Del Toro (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)) fits into place nicely, as the irritating ex-centre fielder who steps up to the plate when Rayburn loses his metal.

On the downside, the film tends to drag somewhat. The ending feels slightly rushed and the acting from Patti D’arbanville (nothing else of note, for obvious reasons) is totally dreadful. Apart from that,  Snipes is marginally better than usual and although it is not De Niro’s best work, I enjoyed this film somewhat. With a haunting Hans Zimmer soundtrack and supporting cast of John Leguizamo (Carlito’s Way (1993)), and Ellen Barkin (Ocean’s Thirteen (2007)), to keep you interested, The Fan is a steady thriller. Give it a chance and you may be more suprised than not getting socks at Christmas from Mummy.

Performance of the film – De Niro’s performance pushed me to more lip biting than a nuts/fly encounter on a cold day. He did his best within the role, slightly overshadowing Snipes’ stupid slugger act.

Quote of the film – De Niro’s powerful one liner “Some people are ungrateful…and they should be taught a lesson” lingers in my head.

Fact of the film – This is the second movie where the De Niro/Baseball bat/head cracking  combo is in full swing.

Soundtrack/score – A nice selection of tunes ranging from the Rolling Stones to Terence Trent D’arby. Add that to a polished main suite from Hans Zimmer and you have a better bundle than a top-notch mobile phone package.


May be a miss for some but it struck  a chord with me. A decent batting average. 77/100.

(Last watched 6 months ago. Reviewed by Mr. Holly.)


Hillsborough (1996) – When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high…

Last week, the families of the 96 Liverpool fans crushed to death at Hillsborough stadium finally found out the truth, after 23 years of tireless campaigning.

Aside from the fans directly affected, the Hillsborough disaster touched most people in the UK’s lives.  I didn’t even watch football at the time, but for some reason I was watching the 1989 semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.  I remember feeling more shocked by the Bradford stadium fire four years earlier, when a decrepit wooden stand caught fire and turned into an inferno in a matter of minutes.

I suppose the fire had a more visceral impact on a seven-year-old boy, as there’s not many things more horrific than seeing a football supporter stumbling across the pitch on fire.  I didn’t truly appreciate the horror of Hillsborough until a few years later, when I was on the terraces as a fan, and felt my first crowd surge.

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Chariots of Fire (1981) – Bring me my bow of burning gold…

…Bring me my arrows of desire,

Bring me my spear, O clouds unfold!

Bring me my Chariot of fire.

– William Blake

What must the World be thinking, I wondered, watching Danny Boyle’s extravagant, silly, spectacular, self-referential, nostalgic, ultra-modern opening ceremony for the London Olympics.  After China’s daunting display of might in Beijing 2008, what would it say to the viewer in Bolivia or Burkina Faso about British culture?

Living in the Czech Republic, I found that one segment translated.  Mr Bean still gets air time on Czech TV, so Rowan Atkinson’s skit involving the London Symphony Orchestra and Vangelis’ iconic Chariots of Fire theme was one reassuring light amidst the general bafflement for many viewers round my way.

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Million Dollar Baby (2005) – Eastwood’s Sucker-Punching Title Shot…

Clint Eastwood’s 2005 Oscar triumph makes a good companion piece to Gran Torino, as both films transcend familiar material to explore deeper themes of loyalty, faith and heroism.

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Do I Not Like That (1994) & Mike Bassett: England Manager (2001) – The Impossible Job…

Football caught me at an impressionable age – I was twelve when England lost on penalties to Germany at Italia ’90.  Before the tournament, I’d never kicked a ball or even thought about football.  I was into Fighting Fantasy gamebooks and writing – football existed on a different wavelength to me.

The moment that caught me forever was not the shootout defeat, or Paul Gascoigne’s famous tears, or arch-goalhanger Gary Lineker’s two nerveless penalties against Cameroon in the quarters.  It was David Platt’s late, late hooked volley in the last-minute against mighty Belgium that sold me on the nerve-shredding wonders of football.

I’d never watched football, I’d never been abroad before, and those glowing images coming out of Turin on that fateful night against Germany looked so romantic, with a soundtrack of Pavarotti, that they looked like signals from a distant planet.

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