Set in the present day, we meet five ex-Manchester United players, who were part of the team that were battling on three fronts in the 2010 football season, competing for the league title, the FA Cup and Champions League. We have the goalkeeper Kurt ‘Kurtzie’ Kurtz (Jonathan Broke), cheeky-chappy Stevo Fallis (James Rastall) and hardened Northerner Danny Keegan (Ryan Pope). There’s also the playboy Olly Hunter (Jack Donnelly) and the eccentric, Ghanian forward Kwasi ‘Modo’ Amoako (Matthew Avery). The collective recount the highs, the lows, and the downright absurds of that truly unforgettable year.
Where Mike Bassett truly came into its element, was it’s masterful depiction of a heightened reality, managing to be hilarious and completely inane, while maintaining a level of naturalism throughout – which is exactly where Sinyor’s effort falls short. United We Fall opts for the easy route, in making this team – and these players – pathetic and uninspiring, where in Bassett, the England team were neither any good, but nor where they overtly rubbish – that’s its genius. It may seem somewhat pedantic to criticise this picture for not being real enough, given it’s a frivolous comedy that revels in its surrealistic approach – but that being said, when you present your picture in the mockumentary format, you have to be believable in many ways, because that’s where the comedy derives from. It’s what makes the likes of The Thick of It, The Office and Spinal Tap such wonderful productions.
Instead, United We Fall feels somewhat outdated, not offering an authentic take on contemporary, football culture. The banter and playboy lifestyles the protagonists lead feels like the product of a bygone era, and not relevant to today, where this laddish culture in the Premier League no longer seems to exist. The Gazza’s of the world just don’t appear in football any more, and to stay true to the setup of this picture, Sinyor may have been better off setting his tale either 20 years ago, or perhaps focused more heavily on players in lower divisions, where this particular type of team camaraderie is still very much prevalent.
The plethora of cheap, easy gags can also be somewhat offensive at times. Like when Kwasi converts to Islam and the others make suicide bomber jokes. Dark humour can be excusable, but only when it’s funny or satirical. When it fails to make you laugh, suddenly the more insulting aspects to the jokes become glaringly uncomfortable. In Sinyor’s defence, nobody is safe, as Africans, Muslims, homosexuals and northerners are ridiculed a fair amount, ensuring nobody in particular is targeted – but it’s simply not of a high enough standard to excuse and justify this particular brand of comedy.