Before she was doing her best to drive up Frank Castle’s body count in Punisher: War Zone, which hits theaters this Friday, director Lexi Alexander was a world class kick boxer and martial artist. But you probably already knew that because every story this week will tell you that Lexi is a badass chick who has an eye for brutal action. What you might now know is that before Punisher, she directed an Oscar nominated short film called Johnny Flynton about the downfall of a small-time boxer.

In addition to the Oscar nom, Lexi also went on to direct a little flick called Green Street Hooligans, a gritty, intense drama about the rough and tumble fan firms of European football. Made in 2005, Green Street Hooligans centers on the story of a young journalism student, played by Elijah Wood, who has just been kicked out of Harvard after being set up by his elitist prick of a roommate. Instead of fighting it, he flies to London to visit her sister (Claire Forlani), who lives with her British husband and young child. It is there that he meets Pete, played by Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam, the leader of a gang called the Green Street Elite. Afraid to get his hands bloody at first, he ultimately learns what it means to be a part of something, to belong somewhere.

It is a wonderfully executed film, filled with brutal alleyway brawls and fantastic performances from both Charlie Hunnam and Elijah Wood. Hunnam is clearly the star of the though, a performance with great depth and poise. If any of you out there have seen Sons of Anarchy, then you know what I’m talking about — this guy is a damn fine actor. As well, Hooligans sports a fantastic supporting cast of characters, all helping to create this unique group of brothers, all dedicated to football (soccer to we Yanks) and the defense of their club’s reputation. The casting, the directorial vision, it all gives the film a very raw authenticity — nothing about it feels forced in any way, which is saying quite a lot for a young director. I will admit that I was caught off guard by it, not expecting much.

So if you are thinking about heading to Punisher: War Zone, or if you’ve been wondering all along who this Lexi Alexander is you might want to go out and rent Green Street Hooligans this week. For anyone who digs an intense and gripping drama that includes some Brits kicking the shit out of each other in back alleys, this movie delivers. It is also punchy and fun at times — trust me, a good Hugh Grant joke goes a long way. The point is that you should check this flick out before you see Punisher: War Zone. Who knows, it could help you gain some perspective on the kickass gal behind the camera.

Another fun fact: Green Street Hooligans was co-produced by Jon Favreau. You guys know him.


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