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Queering the pitch
Gay vs. straight soccer game goes predictably awry in new DVD
It would appear that the queer fútbol film is a genre unto itself. From the German Guys and Balls to the British Bend It Like Beckham, every filmmaker’s goal seems to involve netting a distribution deal for their ever-so-gay take on the sport.
Except in the United States, where football is called soccer, and nobody cares about it anyway.
Really, though, what is the basis of the American apathy towards footie? Is it the men in tiny shorts? Is it David Beckham’s tattoos? The last time soccer/football/fútbol was taken seriously in the U.S., Pelé was the biggest star in the sport and Jimmy Carter had yet to be inaugurated president.
Alas, Rikki Beadle-Blair’s Kickoff is unlikely to change the general American populace’s opinion of the world’s most-loved sport, but it does provide an hour and a half of pronounced and audible guffaws, as well as a disconcertingly attractive and well-built cast. Most of them are more attractive than the aforementioned Beckham is now, and a few of them might possibly give Cristiano Ronaldo a run for his money in the “Take me, I’m yours!” department.
The entirety of the film encompasses a single game in an intramural league. Novice referee Elton will have his hands full indeed trying to keep things on the up-and-up in this match between the Reapers, known as the bad boys of the league, the bullies, and Platoon, the first gay team in the division, playing their first official match.
It doesn’t help when team captain Archer (Ian Sharp) throws a tantrum over the uniforms selected by his boyfriend Joey (Kyle Treslove). The shirts and shorts are pink! Joey points out that Archer approved the fuchsia kit, but Archer has a hissy fit and tears the shirts off his players.
Floyd (Nathan Clough), the only player to come with a racing stripe, brings along his latest one-night-stand, who might possibly be his boyfriend, Benji (Alexis Gregory). Meanwhile, Kingston (Ludvig Bonin) and Marco (Craig Storrod) are an established couple, but bring enough drama for the entire season of a Shakespearian repertory theater, including stalker Donna (Rebecca Joerin).
Rounding out the team is 17-year-old virgin Maddox (Stephen Hoo), who comes complete with his foster father Max (director Beadle-Blair), who is at once outrageously queeny and incredibly knowledgeable about the sport, dropping information on the late, openly gay footballer Justin Fashanu, game strategies and more. He also seems to have an almost hypnotic effect on Elton.
When the Reapers get to the pitch, they don’t quite know what to make of Platoon. The pink shorts and the lack of shirts make them think that Platoon must be a bunch of total toughs; after all, who else would have the stones to wear pink short-shorts to play soccer?
Team captain Adam (Jason Maza) has more than enough to deal with outside the game: his junkie brother Jensen (Jack Salloo) is a teammate and can’t seem to stop vomiting, while his ex-girlfriend Kat (Samantha Lyden) shows up with what is presumed to be Adam’s son Romeo (Ryan Quartley).
Beckham wannabe Danny (Michael Lindall) is accompanied by his shrewish girlfriend Alex (Sasha Frost), while tough-guy Fitz (Jay Brown) uses steroids to escape from bullying in his youth at the hands of Benji and his six older brothers, and Kane (Jai Rajani) would probably be better on goal if he could keep his eye on the ball instead of constantly being on the lookout for cops.
It is an extended game of one-upsmanship on both sides as the teams fight both internally and externally to a climactic shoot-out and a heartwarming ending.
Writer-director-actor Beadle-Blair, who also wrote the film Stonewall and worked on the series Noah’s Arc, did the British television show Metrosexuality and has an even newer film, Fit. He acquits himself admirably here in all of his multifarious professions, including teacher, rattling off a list of famous LGBT people so complete I had to check out Angela Davis on Wikipedia. Oh, I know who she is, but who knew she came out in 1997 in an Out magazine interview? And the stuff about Justin Fashanu, just fascinating.
At its roots, however, Beadle-Blair has crafted an intensely funny film that has real heart. If the ending is too pat, if some of the scenarios are a little too out-there, none of that matters, because it was a fun, light-hearted romp that entertains greatly. Beyond that, he has given us enough eye candy in a completely sexless film to allow anyone a totally innocent “guilty pleasure.”
What is somewhat disconcerting, though, it that all of the actors acquit themselves well. It seems that in American movies, the randomly pretty men cannot act their ways out of paper bags, while in Britain, every Tom, Dick and Harry can do Hamlet. Does anyone know the process by which one could try to claim political asylum in the U.K.?
Regardless, Kickoff is another win from Wolfe Video, who have been supplying LGBT filmic needs for ages. Long may they howl.
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