Friday, December 11, 2009

The Damn United (Rhoades)

“The Damned United” Delivers Touchdown
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

I’m not much of a football buff, but sports fans will join me in praising this British film about Brian Clough, coach of the Leeds United Association Football Club (commonly referred to as Leeds United). Even though this is the English version of professional football, you will find yourself rooting for the West Yorkshire club as if it were the Indianapolis Colts.

I travel to Indy once a month, and stay across from the Lucas Oil Stadium, and can attest to the screaming fans when the Colts recently beat the Patriots.

Here, Clough (played by Michael Sheen) takes over as coach of Leeds – a team that he previously faced when he was coaching Derby. He gets off to a rough start when he tells the United that they may as well throw away all their medals and trophies because “you never won any of them fairly.” Not exactly enduring.

How will Clough fare as the new coach of his old rival? That’s what the movie is about.

Based on the book “The Damned Utd” by David Pearce, the movie was originally scheduled to be directed by Stephen Frears. As you will recall, Frears has given us such entertaining films as “Dangerous Liaisons,” “The Grifters,” “Dirty Pretty Things,” and “The Queen.”

He tapped his “The Queen” star (Michael Sheen who had played Prime Minister Tony Blair) to take on the role of Coach Clough in “The Damned United.” When he first suggested his friend play the part, Sheen “rolled his eyes and burst into a wonderful impersonation” of Clough. It was a done deal.

Then Frears pulled out, turning the director’s chair over to Tom Hooper. Although a film novice, Hooper had enjoyed a distinguished career as a television director. You’re probably familiar with his “John Adams” mini-series or “Elizabeth I.”

Michael Sheen was a perfect choice. Aside from his various portrayals of Tony Blair and several bloodsucking vampires (most recently in “The Twilight Saga: New Moon”), Sheen has also given us a spot-on performance as the talk-show host in “Frost-Nixon.”

Gotta admit, I’m a fan of Michael Sheen. I’ll watch anything Sheen appears in. Including a sports film.
[from Solares Hill]

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