Non-sports fans - or typical American sports fans - are probably thinking that a dramedy set in the world of '70s British soccer is not their, ahem, cup of tea. In the case of The Damned United, however, that attitude could deny you the pleasure of a fascinating and wholly fun film that mostly transcends sport, time and place.

Non-sports fans - or typical American sports fans - are probably thinking that a dramedy set in the world of '70s British soccer is not their, ahem, cup of tea. In the case of The Damned United, however, that attitude could deny you the pleasure of a fascinating and wholly fun film that mostly transcends sport, time and place.

Based on a fictionalized novel, United chronicles the remarkably brief and tumultuous tenure of Brian Clough (Michael Sheen of Frost/Nixon) as manager of English soccer team Leeds United in 1974. Clough takes the reins from rival Don Revie (Colm Meaney) and inherits a team coming off a run of remarkable success.

Clough comes in with a benign arrogance, expressed in a smirking cockiness that's more fun than mean. "I wouldn't say I'm the top manager in the country," Clough quips, "but I'm in the top one."

Damned United isn't so much a sports movie - budget constraints eliminate large-scale game reenactments - as it is a personality portrait, which allows Sheen's delightful portrayal of Clough time to shine. You've never seen a character be so damned lovable while displaying this level of hubris.

Watching Clough's Ahab-esque obsession with besting his rival unravel through failure on the field extends the appeal beyond soccer. And though football fans will have an extra appreciation, you don't need to be a hooligan to enjoy.