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Tuesday, June 1, 2010
ESPNsoccernet: March 19, 2:55 PM UK

Robin Hackett

Release: June 4, 2010. Cert: 15. Running time: 81 mins. Dir: Lindy Heymann. Cast: Kerrie Hayes, Nichola Burley, Jamie Doyle.
Rating: Neglected by her parents and seeking solace in a fantasy world, 15-year-old Nicole believes she is fated to spend her life with Liverpool footballer Lee Cassidy. Her obsession increases when she meets Jasmine, a more confident girl with more realistic - namely silicone - plans to become a WAG. Together, they build a shrine to the player in Nicole's brother's disused caravan. The story of two hormonal teens obsessed with a Premier League footballer, Kicks comes to life following a report that Cassidy has agreed a shock move to Real Madrid. Nicole is devastated upon hearing the news - the adolescent overreaction of a pop-band devotee when the group splits up - and it's a reminder that many of today's players occupy the same celebrity stratosphere as those outside the sporting world. More interesting, though, is the link drawn with the response of Nicole's absent father, whom she finds sitting alone, drinking, on a park bench during the daytime. "Don't talk to me about him," he says. "Traitor. Come up through the ranks, trod them boards - you don't turn your back on that. He's not a Red man. Red men know about loyalty. It's what makes us great. Judas." That love-hate divide, crossing boundaries of gender and age, is a genuine issue for players who wish to advance their careers in the modern game, but the celebrity status it brings also has its benefits. The easy availability of women is one such perk. It's when Cassidy, perhaps fairly portrayed as a misogynist, submits to a liaison with Nicole and Jasmine after a midweek night out that the dream, for all concerned, turns to nightmare. If there are parallels to reality in the revelation of Cassidy's proposed move away from Anfield, they become more overt in the final scenes: one incident in particular seems to nod to a rumour surrounding the breakdown of a transfer involving a Premier League superstar some years ago. For all this, though, Kicks is difficult to recommend to football fans because, while a footballer is at the heart of its storyline, football itself is almost incidental to the film in many respects. As cinema goes, that's not such a bad thing: it's well written and offers an interesting take on the role of footballers in society, which makes it something of an exception. It's no masterpiece, though, and that it lacks any recognisable stars and centres on teenage girls will alienate a significant proportion of its potential sporting audience, but there is certainly food for thought here and it's a compelling enough tale in its own right.

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