Britain have begun to specialise in a specific genre of movies – Gangster. There are variations within that genre, either following the Cockney, East-End gangsters that Guy Richie specialised in or the “hoody” inner-city youth gangsters that films like Kidulthood or Anuvahood focused on. There are tons of examples of these types of movies which means the quality varies hugely and it takes something different to stand-out or create something new.
Ben Drew (Plan B within the music industry) does manage to create a film that feels fresher with Ill Manors. This is because it gives off a sense of realism and truth that a lot of these other films lack. If you follow Ben Drew, through his music specifically, you get a good picture of his background and experience and the way he presents the intertwining stories creates an impression that Ill Manors could well be one of the more accurate interpretations of inner city London.
Part of this fresh, more gritty approach is the way that Ben Drew uses his Plan B persona to narrate and frame the movie. He threads his rap music through the stories, linking the tales and giving key background to the events or people who are on the screen. It’s another, unique approach to a genre that is over-saturated.
There are some very good, mature and dark stories that appear in the movie. They link very well and there is a well structured, cause and effect style to the tale that can surprise you in places. As you get to the third act of the movie though, it does begin to feel very familiar and there is nothing particularly new about what Drew is delivering. The message is the same as any other “inner-city” movie; “life is hard.”
What does help lift this above the other similar movies in the genre are the performances and range of characters. It’s not all foul-mouthed kids who resort to crime with very little background. There are some very well-developed characters here, from an immigrant prostitute with a desperate future to a childless couple who are at the centre of an ill-advised “sale.” They are well-played too, with emerging British talent Riz Ahmed as one of a range of fantastic actors within the movie.
It’s a shame that the ending feels slightly “extreme” and that some of the events before it fall into a more generic pattern. It’s not dark for the sake of dark, like some of the “British Gangster” movies can be but there are times when you feel like you’ve seen these stories before, in other movies with other characters.
Overall, Ben Drew’s directing debut is an accomplished one, clearly using his own experience and knowledge to deliver one of the more unique and original entries into the very familiar “British Gangster” genre. It does become slightly generic towards the end with a final act that pushes the limits of credibility slightly, but is still a step ahead of the similar movies that the British film industry releases regularly.
Rating – 3
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)