Monday, February 04, 2013
Plan B's London riots-inspired directorial debut misses out on the opportunity to make a political statement, says Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian: Ill Manors is a multi-stranded urban crime drama set in east London, the debut feature film from Ben Drew, otherwise known as singer-songwriter Plan B, and developed from his widely hailed song of the same name, all about the 2011 summer riots. The first half-hour of this movie is great: chaotic, inventive, energetic. But after this, the dynamism worryingly leaks out of the film; it turns out to be disappointingly and determinedly apolitical, while the lairy characters and situations look increasingly forced, derivative and unconvincing, with a touch of Guy Ritchie. By the time Natalie Press turns up, playing a woman forced to work as a prostitute by a sex-trafficking gang, the film has turned into a geezery Brit-Pulp Fiction knockoff. Riz Ahmed – so great in Chris Morris's Four Lions and Eran Creevy's Shifty – is at the centre of film, playing a troubled guy called Aaron, but his character is bafflingly flat and dull, and the film's finale is wildly sentimental.
But the opening has power and flair. It begins with a great rush of energy and a swirl of images from cinematographer Gary Shaw, and a musical track that subtly and rather hauntingly remixes Saint-Saëns's Carnival of the Animals. Using a mix of professional and non-professional actors, Drew sets out to dramatise the despair of those with no prospects other than selling drugs, with no sense of community or identity, which manifests itself partly in a neurotic obsession with their mobile phones, of which they have large numbers, all on pay-as-you-go so that they can't be traced by "the feds".