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Friday, September 19, 2008

DVD review: Kicking It...

Posted by Matt Davis on Fri, Sep 19, 2008 at 1:00 PM

If there's one thing I learned from the movie Team America it's that social causes should beware the well-meaning actor. In this case, Colin Farrell's corny efforts to advocate on behalf of the homeless soccer World Cup had me thinking "Arec Baldrin" came across half-way realistic when he sought to defeat Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il through the power of Acting(TM) in that movie.

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Farrell only appears in Kicking It for eight minutes. There's two minutes at the beginning, where everybody's favorite hard-drinking, hard-partying Hollywood lout does his best to look serious telling us that it's possible to solve homelessness (and alcoholism. And heroin addiction...) through the power of "football." Then, there are six minutes at the end, where Farrell lets us know what happened to the various homeless soccer players we've been following for the last 90 minutes.

"Soimon relapsed and doyed of a drog oh-ver-dhose four months after getting back from the tournament..." he croons. But don't forget: "Som'tn as simple as a ball can help you change your loife."

At this point, your reviewer was contemplating the psychological relief that might be afforded by sticking pins into his own eyes. But as many a Hollywood power broker must have intoned over the past decade: "It's a shame Colin Farrell got involved," because minus the Irishman's putrid "benevolence," the film at least presents some engaging questions as it follows a handful of homeless men from around the world to the fourth annual homeless world cup in Capetown.

More after the jump.

Jesus, a 62-year-old alcoholic from Madrid, was robbing banks for eight years and spent a decade in jail after a 36-month career with Real Madrid turned sour in his early twenties (thanks to the drink). He can't play for shit these days, but his story is stranger than fiction.

Alex, 29, was born in the biggest slum in Kenya, and cleans toilets for a living. His team does pretty well in the tournament, then, he goes back to cleaning toilets, and if that's not interesting, what is? Although I'm not sure how it fits with Farrell's summation of the power of the game to trump global capitalism when it comes to uplifting versus oppressing the poor.

Damien, 23, is a smack addict goalkeeper from Dublin, affording the producers the lazy opportunity to play Where The Streets Have No Name over footage of his play. (Breaking: Bono was from Dublin, too!) The poor guy suffers through a great deal to play in the tournament, panic attacks, the works, but at least he saves a goal or two. And his accent is unbelievable.

Najib is from Afghanistan, where apparently, it's scary. But you see where I'm going with this: The film and its subject are so wide-ranging in geographic and ideological scope that they never really have a chance at establishing a meaningful focus or narrative thread. It all just feels like so much bullshit, a boondoggle for the producers.

Through the course of the documentary we're introduced to some tragic people, and shown homelessness is a global problem. Then, we're told that soccer can help, and the film cuts to some choppy footage of anonymous teams playing against one another on half-size concrete pitches. We glimpse those we've been introduced to, earlier, but the disadvantage of documenting a soccer tournament on a limited budget, as opposed to fictionalizing one, is that you can't so easily tell a coherent story. Especially not when one of the participants relapses and dies four months after the tournament's conclusion.

By the end of the film it's clear that soccer has as much to do with solving the global problem of homelessness as golf does, or, maybe, keeping hamsters. There's even something suspicious about the free-market motives of those seeking to foist the game upon people who might better be served by a good course of drug treatment, or perhaps some sound international efforts to more evenly distribute the planet's wealth. Next up: Ping pong can solve homelessness! I swear.

But what does the millionaire Colin Farrell know about the unfairness of life on this planet? The gracious donation of eight minutes of his busy schedule to attempt to address it shows just how much.

And I almost forgot: Only men play in the tournament. Homelessness affects women, too, and viciously at that. Just a thought: Maybe we should start a knitting competition and let the cameras roll.

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