So this evening the little one was tucked in bed early and I really felt like watching a film. My friend at work told me he had the Ill Manors soundtrack and it was good, and when I told him I hadn't even watched the film he seemed shocked! So when I saw it today on Sky On Demand I decided to give it a go, and surprisingly I didn't regret it at all!
- Plot -
The plot is actually quite complicated as it follows several intertwining storylines revolving around gang crime, drugs, prostitution, brothels, child abuse, you name a harrowing storyline this film has got it. Without giving too much of the storyline away here are some of the themes:
1. Jake is after some weed from Marcel and borrows £20 off his mate to buy it. Taking him for a bit of a Mug, Marcel says he will only give it to him if he beats his mate up. Wanting to get in on the crew, Jake obliges and tags along with them for the day with their illegal gang activities. At the end of the day Marcel gives him a gun and tells him to go into the house, and shoots the person who lives there...once you're in the crew theres no escaping and its either kill or be killed....
2. Kirby is an old time drug dealer in the area recently released from prison. Chris is a child who's mother was a heroin addict, and often went to Kirby's house whilst his mum "got her gear" as he listened to her sexual activities downstairs. On one occasion, one of the dealers in the house stole all the drugs and out of spite and racism carved a scar next to his eye, whilst Chris' mum and Kirby were upstairs. As his mum dies of an overdose he grows older and colder, taking over from Kirby as lead drug dealer in the area, having both Marcel and Ed as his men who would sell for him. When his sister gets shot he is intent on revenge....
3. Ed and Aaron are two friends who run the streets together, both having troubled childhood being brought up in care. Ed being the more hot headed of the two, one night gets nicked but manages to give Aaron his phone before being held overnight. Aaron heads to Kirby's house to get some drugs but ends up leaving the phone there whilst "crackhead" Michelle is about and he presumes she stole the phone. When Ed is released from prison, he wants his phone back and since Michelle doesn't remember he takes her from shop to shop, selling her body to men for as little as a tenner until she can pay him back. Aaron clearly is the soft of the two as he feels guilty and sorry for her, especially as the men do awful sleazy things to her. After some confusion, Aaron pays off her debt for her and says he will pay Ed back....
4. Katya is an illegal immigrant from Eastern Europe, being part of a brothel in which she lives in hell. She falls pregnant and is continuously sexually abused by men with perverted sexual preferences, S&M, fetishes etc until one day she escapes and gives birth to a baby girl after being beaten up. She finds an abandoned flat in which she stays and in there is Michelle shooting up. The next day she intends to go to Paddington, with Michelle taking her but one of the men who abducted her spots her and chases her into the station. Knowing what the man will do to her, she abandons the baby on the train where she is found by Aaron who having been brought up in care is reluctant to give the baby to Social Services but instead wants to find her mother and return her...
...Sounds complicated right?
- My Opinion -
The film is actually a lot easier to watch than I probably have described it, and although quite lengthy at 121 minutes (yes 2 hours!) I actually was gripped from start to finish. I always thought this film was a crappy remake of films like adulthood/kidulthood but I actually found it to be more original, more though provoking and more genuine than Noel Clarkes films in this genre. For a British film I also thought it showed a lot of perspective at the realities of how and why young boys get involved in such gang culture and how once you're in, you're trapped and coming from such a broken background it can seem like the only option.
The plot lines above really are only the tip of the iceberg as each of the characters stories intertwine and overlap showing how they all relate to each other. Some of the storylines did seem a bit far fetched i.e. selling a baby to randoms for £8,000 which was at the end of the film and something I didn't feel the film needed as it brought it away from reality, and really just seemed ludicrous. I mean I know nothing about what really goes on that I don't know about but baby selling on the black market just seemed nonsense!
The film was really well paced, brilliantly acted and I totally believed in all their stories and felt so much compassion and sadness with each event that happened! Ben Drew (aka Plan B) wrote and directed this film, and so uses his musical talent by contributing to this film with a song for each character to explain their background and story. For example the opening of the film begins with his song "I am the narrator" in which he introduces characters, his voice over purpose for the film as "I'll be that...Lyrical narrator, social commentator,
Socially commentating, what I say's verbatim, Verbal stipulator, oral illustrator" are some of the lyrics. As a fan of rap music (and a semi- Plan B fan) I really liked the element this brought to the film and reminded me a bit of 8 mile which is a film I LOVE!
The actors in this film are all relatively unknown to me, which I thought was a good, fresh way for new up and coming stars to show their talents as they all were excellent in their role and came across totally believable. The lead Lee Allen who plays Chris has apparently been to prison in real life, but I felt this only added to his authenticity in this role as a hardened drug dealer who was all out with anger and rage and would stop at nothing.
- Overall -
Overall I really liked this film, and it was a brilliant watch that I definitely recommend. In fact as soon as it was over I messaged my sister telling her how good it was and that she should watch it too! If you're a fan of British gang films or films like Kidulthood/Adulthood then this is similar but 100 times more raw and emotional and with far better acting in my opinion. I think Plan B deserves a commendation for writing and directing this film as I thought it was brilliant so definitely give it 5 stars!
"I am the narrator. The voice that guides the blind, following not with your ears but your mind. Allow me to take you back and forth through time to explain the significance of things you may think are insignificant now but won't, further down the line."
- Ben Drew.
I am a huge fan of Plan B's music and I think the guy is amazing so when I found out that he was bringing a film out that he wrote and directed I was beyond excited! As the film is partly based on the things that he witnessed when he was younger while living on a resedential estate in London I was expecting a really gritty, realistic film but instead it is just a huge mess of over exaggeration and completely over the top, unbelievable scenarios.
I think that he has tried too hard to make it shocking - seeing as he is an unofficial spokesperson for children in gangs I feel that he has drastically overplayed things so that people think "oh my God, I never realised it was so bad, I need to start a petition/fundraising event to help all those poor little hoodrats!' Well, that's the impression I got anyway (minor spoiler alert) - a kid joining a gang and shooting people, a woman prostituting herself with a newborn baby in tow, drug dealers selling a baby for £8,000, a man being set on fire by mistake, buildings blowing up, car chases - get the picture?!
It's grim but so exagurrated that it is almost (and I mean almost) laughable. I'm not saying that things like this don't happen - I'm sure that to an extent they do and considering my background (I grew up on a bad estate until the age of ten) I have seen my fair share of undesirable people but this is just ridiculous. Ben narrates the film now and again with clever poetry and the film follows several characters who are seemingly unconnected but we see them cross paths over the course of the film which was predictable, but nevertheless it helped things make more sense and bought the film together. The first character is a drug dealer who has served time. He's a real creep with a 'thing' for teenage girls and he is just generally a nasty piece of work.
Another character is Ed, who is played by Ed Skrein - most well known for his rap music rather than his acting. The character is a violent and mentally disturbed drug dealer who is haunted by his childhood which was spent in a children's home. His best friend Aaron, also a main character is a drug dealer too and he was in the care home with Ed. The two have a bond but their relationship is quite messed up which was quite interesting to watch. The next character is a young boy who is around fifteen I'd guess if not younger. After trying to buy some drugs from a gang, they refuse to give them to him unless he beats his friend up, which he does and he is adopted by the gang to do their dirty work.
The gang isn't really a huge part in the film, they aren't consistent in it and we don't get to know the characters. The next character is a pregnant prostitute who works for a violent russian gang. She escapes and gives birth and the film follows her as she tries to get away as they follow her around London. There's also another character who is a drug addict and prostitute who turned to drugs after being abused as a child but this character doesn't have much dialouge, nor does the character have much depth. The next character is a teenage girl who has got a really sweet personality but she is getting sucked deeper and deeper into gang culture by the day. There are a few other characters including a depressed drug addict, a pub landlord and his wife and so on.
The acting isn't great and I found it cringey to watch at some points. The words came out but there was no depth or emotion behind them if that makes sense, it was just like listening to someone reading a script through most of the film. The fight and sex scenes weren't even particularly realistic and I found myself fast fowarding through the fight scene in the playground because I felt it was incredibly bad acting. The language used will be hard for some people to understand as it is the usual 'wagwarn, still, bruv' and so on. Special effects wise.. well there's only CGI used once or twice and it was reasonably realistic but not the best which for a low budget film is understandable..
If you are totally naive to the going ons in gangs and on rough estates then there is no doubt that this will keep you hooked to the screen in shock and curiosty but if you have already seen Kidulthood and Adulthood or Shifty and Harry Brown I'd give this a miss as it's not at all unique and it isn't a film that stands out. The soundtrack is pretty good which is a slight advantage but overall I didn't enjoy the film. I found myself feeling bored and wanting it to just finish and seeing as it is nearly two hours long it did drag!! I wouldn't recommend this film and it was a waste of the £3.99 we spent to rent it. My boyfriend didn't like it either and he normally loves films like Adulthood so that shows just how bad it is.
One out of five stars - stick to writing music, Ben!