It’s a hard life being a football fan. We endure the elements through harsh winters and sweltering summers, become the nucleus of banter around the water cooler on a Monday morning and are pulled through the emotional ringer whilst we experience the highs and lows of our team. You’d have to be pretty mad to take on such a duty and James Marquand’s mad caper, One Night in Istanbul, does an admirable job in reminding us how important us nutters up on the terraces are.
Pulled straight from the hit stage play penned by Nick Allt – who also takes on writing duties for the film adaptation – we follow the pursuits of two die hard Liverpool FC fans, Tommy (Steven Waddington) and Gerry (Paul Barber) as they endeavour to reach Istanbul to watch Liverpool play AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League Final. When a dodgy deal involving a pair of Hitler’s cufflinks goes tits-up, this down-on-their-luck duo find themselves with a bag of cash and a pair of Turkish gangsters on their trail.
Allt’s script does a terrific job of drawing parallels between the fortunes of Liverpool on the pitch and Tommy and Gerry’s mishaps off it. As Liverpool’s first half capitulates, Tommy finds himself completely out of his depth and in danger of losing more than just a precious 90 minutes with his beloved Liverpool. At half time it’s all to play for as Tommy looks to wriggle out of his predicament, locate Gerry and salvage a failing relationship with his son. Time for a miracle.
With similarities to British comedy classics like The Full Monty and The Parole Officer, One Night in Istanbul is a comfortably familiar affair, playing off the audiences appreciation for a relatable formula. From the pre-game rituals to the songs we sing on the terraces, even the lingo could have been lifted from the streets of Brookside. Furthermore, Waddington and Barber are having a whale of a time in their roles, bouncing off one another like years-old ‘bessies’ and bringing often cheesy, but ultimately heartwarming humour to the occasion.
Whilst the film is severely slapstick and certainly lacks the gloss of a big studio production, Marquand perfectly captures the fanfare on the streets of Istanbul, along with the energy and excitement that football, and it’s fans, can bring to a town. There are some wonderful location shots and an exuberance within all the main characters which is infectious enough to forgive some of the films misgivings. Football fans, especially those of a Liverpool affliction, will enjoy revisiting a memorable night; but for all those watching, it’s a an affectionate reminder of how important we all our in contributing to special moments in history.
One Night in Istanbul is out on DVD 2nd February
Words > Sam Lawrence