A squad of four detectives are sent to infiltrate Shadwell's football firm. As they successfully ingraciate themselves into the club, they - and one in particular (Dinsdale) begin to appreciate and be seduced by the lifestyle, but they can never reveal themselves, and are faced with the dilemma of bringing in what are now their true friends.
One of Britain's unique contributions to global culture is football hooliganism, so it's something of a surprise that this is only the second film to tackle the subject. Oddly, director Davis was in the cast of the first, the superior Gary Oldman TV movie The Firm. While that was an insider's view, I.D adopts the strategy of an American crime movie, following an undercover cop who infiltrates a hooligan gang, ultimately going native, seduced by the terrace thuggery.
John (Dinsdale), an ambitious constable, is the most committed member of a four-man team sent into the streets, and onto the footie terraces of East London to get in with the hardcore yobbos who support a made-up team, Shadwell Town. At this point the movie starts to brew up a traditional conspiracy plot, but drops all the mystery almost instantly. Instead, it turns into a character study, with John, an upwardly mobile working-class bloke with an aspirational girlfriend (Clare Skinner) and Ikea furniture, gradually transforming into a caveman.
All four cops discover an atavistic obsession with football (though we never get a single frame of on-pitch action), but John alone revels in the opportunities for drunkenness, violence and copping off with harsh barmaid Reeves, attaining himself hero status among his fellow Neanderthals.
While brilliantly acted and sometimes shudderingly realistic, there is a thinness to the motivation which really hurts this film. It offers only stereotype roles to its excellent cast and never manages to convey what is attractive about life as a thug. Ultimately, for all its quality footwork, Davis' movie is too weak in the goal area.