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Oi For England (1982)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

A brick and plaster Victorian basement, Moss Side, Manchester, the early 1980s. A trio of skinheads rehearse their song, spitting out the anger and frustration of a dejected underclass. As Finn, Landry and Swells finish, they are visited by Gloria, black daughter of the house's owner. She has come to collect rent. The lads are impatiently awaiting the fourth member, Napper. Swells is hostile and abusive to Gloria, but when he becomes aggressive, Landry calms him down. Finn is more polite. But none has the money. Landry suggests later tonight. Napper arrives, grinning. He chucks the others a can of beer each, then peels off the rent from a bundle of notes and hands it to Gloria.

Leaving, Gloria meets a man on the stairs. He glares at her, then moves past. After the man has left to give them time to talk, Napper explains he met him in a skinhead pub, he is known only as The Man, and he is prepared to offer them a gig, for money. He claims he's already had £10 advance, with another £30 coming on the night. Swells is excited; Landry and Finn are suspicious. Finn, convinced the man is a fascist, is hostile, but under pressure from the others, agrees to play one song for him. But when Napper goes off to fetch him, he finds him gone. Dejected, Napper turns on Finn. He is set to leave when the man returns.

They play their song - Sod the Lord, Pass the Ammunition. Finishing, they fall about laughing, high on their own power. Outside, they hear the sound of alarms, sirens: there's clearly trouble on the streets. The Man stands at the other end of the basement, on a cellphone. When he finishes, he explains the noises - a pub full of skinheads is under siege by a group of blacks. He offers them the gig - a free skinhead festival, maybe 20,000 people. The deal is £30 on the night, nothing upfront. The others are excited, but Finn is still suspicious. He wants to know where The Man is coming from, his politics. Thinking Finn has taken him for a 'nigger lover', The Man calmly, eloquently, sets out his philosophy. England, he says, has been taken over by foreigners - Jews, Arabs, blacks, Asians - at the expense of the white working classes who built the country with their labour.

Satisfied he has made his point, The Man leaves. With the exception of the excitable, rather stupid Swells, the group are dejected. Finn has made up his mind: they won't play the gig. Napper is tense but quiet. Remembering that The Man said no advance, Swells asks Napper where he got the money for the rent. Napper explains he mugged an Asian man for his wage packet. Finn gets angry, calls Napper thick; the two square up, but Landry separates them. Napper leaves in frustration; Swells follows.

Landry admits the politics is beyond him: he would have played the gig. But he respects Finn's decision. All the same, he says, something had better happen soon. He leaves, inviting Finn to join him, but Finn says he'll stay around, mooch. As Finn tidies up, Gloria returns, to close up. She warns him to take care if he's going out - a group of Asians, enraged by the mugging of an Asian man, are looking for skinheads to beat. She is curious about The Man. He tells her. As Gloria moves to leave, he takes her to a side room, lined with stolen goods. He begins to don padding, ready for outside, and helps Gloria to do the same. She asks why he rejected the gig and he tells her about the stories his grandfather told him of seeing concentration camp victims in the war.

While Gloria waits upstairs, Finn puts an Irish ballad on the cassette player and begins dismantling the equipment. Then, in a fury, he grabs a guitar and, using it as a mallet, he trashes all of the gear. Calm again, he puts the final touches to his protection and heads for the street.