Now folk that know me will know that over the years I have become somewhat quite dogmatic in my love for the national Scottish football team, following them (in kilt with beer in hand) across this godforsaken planet having spent some good times and bad in many weird and wonderful locations. Sadly one of the less salubrious locations was a trip to Dortmund in Germany a few years back where on a ludicrously wet and windy evening at the Westfalenstadion in Dortmund the German national team turned over a sodden downtrodden Scotland team (leading to the legendary onscreen cires of 'cheats f*cking cheats' from the irked Christian Dailly) - and it's only now several years later that I have been able to reflect on my visit to Dortmund but do so now with a much cheerier frame of mind as I kick back with Sherry Horman's football comedy opus BALLS (Männer wie wir).
The film opens in the small village of Boldrup where baker's son Ecki (Maximilian Brückner) plays in goal for the village football team. As the opening reel unfolds we see Ecki miss a crucial save for the home team which leads to them losing out on an expected promotion into the regional league. If that wasn't bad enough for poor Ecki things go from bad to worse when drowning their sorrows at the local bar Ecki makes a move on one of his team mates which is met with the ultimate bad timing when they look up to see the rest of the team standing there looking on in horror (well it's old school village mentality here and two blokes kissing is not the norm for the more mentally challenged). Poor Ecki is swiftly kicked out of the local team but in a moment of anger challenges his former team mates to a match against a team of gay players…only problem being that he has no team to play so off he heads to the bright lights of Dortmund where with the aid of his lovely sister he seeks to enlist a team of ably committed gay football players, easier though said than done!
After trawling the usual gay haunts Ecki soon gathers together a rag tag gang of various souls; including an uber camp Turkish David Beckham fanatic, some stereotypical leather boys and a couple of super talented Brazilians (Ronaldo and Ronaldino) amongst others and the scene is set for 90 minutes or so of gut chuckling hilarity in one of the funniest footballs films since Gregory's Girl was unleashed onto an unsuspecting football loving audience back in the 70's. Will the team of rejects be ready in time for the big match back in Ecki's home town of Boldrup or will the film build up to a crescendo of heartbreak and misery in Ecki's battle against small town homophobia?
Needless to say these questions are all confidently answered in BALLS which even with its glaring potential failings of becoming a sickly stereotypical cliché fest manages to rise above them all to be a genuinely entertaining comedy treat. You cant help but laugh along with the characters as they bring their own brand of eclectic humour to the football field, never has the practice of 'physical' tackling been so downright hysterical (well not since Vinnie Jones retired) and as the final game unfolds there's no way even the most hardened of souls wont crack a big ear to ear grin of excited anticipation to see just who will win through at the final whistle.
Director Sherry Horman does a first class job with Benedikt Gollhardt's unavoidably clichéd script, the film romps along at lightning pace hooking the viewer early on for the entertainingly gratifying ride. The cast in the main throughout play their roles well with particular note going to Maximilian Brückner in the lead role of Ecki and more so Christian Berkel's excellent performance as gay leather boy Rudolf facing the turmoil of trying to gain access to his beloved young son.
This welcome DVD release from Peccadillo Pictures presents the film in pin sharp anamorphic widescreen with a vibrant 5.1 surround audio track alongside clear concise optional English subtitles making for a ripping viewing experience all round. Extraswise there's a collection of trailers for various Peccadillo theatrical and DVD releases, though sadly not one for BALLS itself which is a shame, but that's made up for by the inclusion of a 'Behind the Scenes' segment which includes some candid on set shots and snippets of lighthearted banter from the folk involved in the films production.
As football movies go this is light years better than Ally McCoist's lamentable 'A Shot At Glory' and even with the high level of schmaltzy feel good factor BALLS is without doubt the finest football comedy since 'Gregory's Girl' - check it out!
Review by Alan Simpson
|Released by Peccadillo Pictures|
|Region 2 - PAL|
|see main review|