Many congratulations to Liverpool FC and their fans for making it back to the Champions League Final in 2018. It makes a great time to enjoy football feature films about Liverpool FC: Reds and Blues, Will, Hillsborough, and now, One Night in Istanbul. There are more I haven’t seen!
ONII is a tale of 2 cabbies, Tommy (Steven Waddington) and Gerry (Paul Barber), who are super supporters but broke. They are determined to go to Istanbul to watch Liverpool play AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League Final. A loan shark agrees to fund the trip, if the 2 men will sell a pair of Hitler’s cufflinks to a buyer in Istanbul. The men bring along their 2 young adult sons as a rite of passage into Liverpool fandom and music appreciation.
Once in Istanbul, the movie well portrays what it’s like when hundreds of football fans party in the streets. It really reminded me of WC 2006, when I heard, in the middle of the night below my pensione, hundreds of men running wild through the streets of Germany, drunk and singing and having a great time.
But for Tommy, Gerry, and their boys, the rite of spring gets very complicated when they discover a stashed bag of money and weapons, the boys can’t find tickets, and Tommy tries to get laid.
By the time the game starts, Tommy is tied down in his hotel room, the boys are arrested, and Gerry is left alone to watch Liverpool go down the tubes, 0-3 at half-time.
However, Allt figures out a way to get all 4 men back together to watch the end of the game. There’s a reason they call it the Miracle of Istanbul, and until I watched this funny film, I did not understand why “Steven Gerrard is a God”. But true to his audience, Allt knows how to stitch together the best parts of the game so that, even 13 years later, the tension and joy are easily recreated.
The guys who churn out Liverpool movies
One reason there are so many Liverpool movies is because the club has two ardent fans who are prolific writers, filmmakers, and playmakers (in the theatrical sense). Writer Nicky Allt first developed One Night in Istanbul (ONII) as a successful play, which was then turned into a movie with a $6M budget under Director James Marquand.
In addition to Nicky Allt is his friend Dave Kirby, who created the comedy Reds and Blues. Early on, the two writers had teamed up to create their play “Brick Up the Mersey”, which got them onto the path of creating content with, about, and for Liverpool fans. ONII reflects Allt’s personal history of following the club to far away games, and he also incorporated other fans’ stories into the film. Likewise, Kirby’s characters reflect fans that he knows. Both writers embrace Liverpool civic culture by making music a big part of their productions. Cast members are fellow fans.
Should you watch this film?
Yes, if you are a Liverpool fan.
Not being a Liverpool supporter though, I am not so forgiving about all the holes in the story. I frankly couldn’t figure out what was going on. What happened to the money, what happened to the cuff links, who are these bad guys, why did everyone get arrested, how did the guys get out of jail, what happened back in Liverpool? Like we used to say in the lab, the bugs in the story are TNTC (Too Numerous To Count). Infantile dirty underpants and erectile function jokes are also TNTC, and of course, all the women in the film are bimbos. (Hey, Directors out there, Women are fans too!)
Focusing back on the game, LFC conducted a rousing up-and-down battle to make it to the Final. Hopefully LFC has a Miracle in Kiev versus Real Madrid, so that Allt and Kirby can come up with a new story. If not, Liverpool fans can enjoy Allt as he continues to update his very successful YNWA “You’ll Never Walk Alone” play/musical every few years.
Paul Barber is one of my favorite actors in The Full Monty. He has been in another soccer movie: The Magnificent Eleven.
For more football films that center on the fans, check out my post Without Fans, There Would be No Sports Heroes
For the record, it may be significant that I am publishing this review on May-5. The movie refers to a superstition about the number 5 and LFC, but I could not find anything about this in google. If you know, please use the Contact Me page to fill me in, and I will add that info to the review. Thanks!
At the time of this writing, the movie is available in the USA on Amazon Prime.
6 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 6