Wednesday, 19 June 2013

ILL MANORS - Review By Greg Klymkiw - PlanB rapper Ben Drew's kitchen-sink crime drama a shocker.

Ill Manors (2012) ****
Dir. Ben Drew
Starring: Riz Ahmed, Ed Skrein, Natalie Press, Anouska Mond, Lee Allen, Keef Coggins, Ryan De La Cruz, Nick Sagar

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Welcome to East End London. The manors are indeed, ill. Check it out:

A little boy of mixed race is left alone with a racist skinhead as his Mom gets porked by a gangster. The child's face gets mutilated by the skinhead. Children must be scarred forever to remind them and others how low their place in the world is.

A little boy wants to deal. He's 13. He's told to beat the shit out of his friend. He needs to prove his potential, his loyalty, his willingness to do anything it takes to build his street cred. He wants respect, He wants to be made. He does what he's told in the most horrendously brutal manner possible.

Two young men accuse a teenaged crack whore of losing a cel phone and she's forced into a harrowing night wherein she must raise 1000 big ones by offering herself to one john after another at 20 smackers-a-pop. These are not ordinary johns. She's led to every all night falafel joint, convenience store and other such establishments - staffed by poor new immigrants with their own unique cultural views on women - and specifically whores.

A young dealer and an innocent woman at the wrong place at the wrong time are gunned down in cold blood.

A young man is forced at gunpoint to carve up another.

A trembling, squealing young man has a gun shoved into his face and ordered to face death as a man.

A sex slave and her baby escape from Russian pimps, but she's tracked down pronto and forced to abandon her baby in a subway train. The baby winds up in the hands of a street thug. One things leads to another and the baby is sold. Eventually we see it tossed from a window.

Ben Drew, the UK rapper AKA Plan B has made a fine feature film debut with Ill Manors. Brits are notorious and especially adept at shoving our faces into kitchen sinks, toilet bowls and garbage cans. It's a fine tradition that really hit its stride during the early 1960s during the British New Wave period of "Angry Young Man" pictures.

UK has delivered any number of crime melodramas in recent years that the heroes of the halcyon New Wave days like Richard Burton, Tom Courtenay, Albert Finney, Richard Harris, Laurence Harvey, et all - spewing anger and pure venom, would just as easily have been at home in.

Here though, Drew populates his sprawling time-and-place-concentrated Ill Manors with a mix of professional and non-professional actors. A superb combination of brilliantly designed/chosen studio sets and locations allows Drew to place us completely in the palms of his cinematically virgin, though highly evocative hands. It's impossible to take one's eyes off the screen.

It's a cross between Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets in East End London and Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (if that film had REAL balls and wasn't so overtly "manufactured"). Grit, grime and blood mingle perfectly to create a portrait of violence and despair that for some might feel slightly derivative, but in actual fact, is blessed with a powerful new filmmaking voice.

Drew's lens whips about the environs and proceedings with an eye for detail. At times, the suspense during tension-filled criminal activity is unbearable. When violence hits us, Drew might as well be slamming a shovel in our faces.

This, however, is no sloppy, herky-jerky, rag-tag affair. Compositions are effectively appropriate to the dramatic action. Most chillingly is how subtly Drew draws our eyes to key implements of death and destruction - guns, blades, crack bowls, etc/. As such, his staging/blocking and camera directives are so visionary and proficient that often single shots can have us shuddering.

The structure of the film revolves around several rap songs which drew wrote and performed. He cuts them like extremely sophisticated music videos to provide background, back story and street philosophy.

Amidst the chaos and criminal activity, Drew roots his tale in humanity. He delivers a movie where some of the most despicable actions lead to greater depth of understanding. Given the grim, bleak, violent reality of this world he never provides easy answers and never ties up his narratives into neat bows, but we do experience redemption and through the haze of crack smoke and the blood that feels like it's being splashed in our eyes, we even get a glimmer of hope.

But, just a glimmer. For the wasted, forgotten and/or reviled young men and women of this world, there are few real choices. They're the true progeny of Margaret Thatcher. They live, not for the future, but for the moment.

It's a film that's ultimately very moving and no matter how despicable the actions of its protagonists, Drew never forgets to remind us how fallible we are as a species and that for some, choices - no matter hpw bad - are the only power many of our kids have.

As grippingly as the film forces us to watch, it just as easily forces us not to forget. Once humanity gets to a point of collective avoidance then good and bad become one.

That's even scarier shit.

"Ill Manors" is in theatrical release and also available through the usual home entertainment venues via Berkshire Axis Media. In Toronto it's playing around the corner from one of our very own Ill Manors at the Yonge and Dundas cinema.