Ill Manors
dir-scr Ben Drew
prd Atif Ghani
with Riz Ahmed, Ed Skrein, Anouska Mond, Keith Coggins, Natalie Press, Ryan de la Cruz Indianda, Nick Sagar, Lee Allen, Jo Hartley, John Cooper Clarke, Mem Ferda, Dannielle Brent
release UK 6.Jun.12
12/UK Revolver 1h56
Ill Manors
Life's grim, innit: Skrein and Ahmed

ahmed press drew
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Ill Manors Musician Ben Drew (aka Plan B) shows impressive skill in his filmmaking debut, even if he's chosen a badly overworked genre. So no matter how stylish the film is, the lack of a central plot or an original theme make it difficult to care what happens.

On a bleak East London estate, Aaron (Ahmed) is a low-life dealer hanging out with his thuggish best pal Ed (Skrein). When Ed's phone goes missing, they trace it to crack-addict Michelle (Mond), who they force to turn tricks to pay Ed back. Meanwhile, a young kid (Indianda) must prove himself if he wants to join a gang led by Marcel (Sagar). Later, Aaron has a chance encounter with terrified Katya (Press), who abandons her baby with him. Unable to find her, Aaron lets Ed arrange a black-market adoption.

To say that the each story strand takes unexpected turns is an understatement, and Drew's script is careful to put everything into cautionary social context. He's not exactly saying that these people deserve the misery they get, but it's not far from that. Each character pays a price for the terrible decisions they make, but then it's not like they have much choice: in this segment of British society, life is cheap and often tragically short, a hopeless downward spiral from birth.

Drew shoots and edits with considerable artistry, catching colours, shadows and rhythms, with a character-based focus that delivers some strong, punchy moments. The film is punctuated with music-videos in which the main characters sing their grim back-stories. Even though these songs are rather bland (as opposed to the storming title track), the terrific cast brings the characters to life with such jagged, realistic performances that we feel like outsiders unable to understand what they're talking about.

Indeed, Drew's insistence on street-slang obscures many conversations. And the crowd of characters is bewildering since only some are inter-connected and none becomes an involving central figure. Ahmed's character arc is the most complete dramatically, but he's off-screen for large chunks of the over-long running time. So even though this gritty exploration of rough urban streets is well-made, it doesn't say anything new, it preaches far too forcefully, and it never gives us anyone to sympathise with.

cert 18 themes, language, drugs, violence, sexuality 20.Mar.12

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