Written and directed by British music artist Plan B (Ben Drew), Ill Manors is a surprisingly well made film that depicts “Broken Britain”. While Drew doesn’t have the answers, he sure shows us some of the problems.
Drew’s hit single of the same name (Ill Manors) opens the film, a protest song about the London riots that helps set the stage for the drama and anger we’re about to witness.
Revolving itself around a group of characters whose misery tingled tales are woven and intertwined, Ill Manors locates itself in East London’s Forest Gate. Among the characters are creepy junkie Kirby (Keith Coggins) who is fresh out of jail. Destructive local drug dealer Ed (Ed Skrein) and his dealer friend Aaron (Riz Ahmed- Shifty, Four Lions), who tries to do the right thing but is constantly sucked into drama and confusion over trying to find his own mother. Local gangster Chris (Lee Allen) ends up looking for serious retribution, while young Jake (Ryan De La Cruz) finds himself a target after joining a teenage crew led by Marcel (Nick Sagar). All while sex trafficked Katya (Natalie Press) and junkie Michelle (Anouksa Mond) find themselves in a similar struggle.
These eight main characters whose paths interweave throughout the narrative are introduced with a song and rap from Plan B himself that fills us in on their terrible and tragic lifestyles. There is a darkness to each subplot and the narration adds an original edge to the movie. Drew seems to undeniably understand the world he is talking about.
I don’t want to say much more and give away too many details and divulge how they are woven into each other, but Ill manors is a multi-character drama set among the violent drug dealers and teenage gangs who inhabit the British capital.
Drew’s cinematic debut is as completely engrossing as it is often off-putting and it has a freshness you can’t deny. The unknown cast, barring charismatic Riz Ahmed who will be familiar to devotees of British cinema, all do an amazing job of showing us the naked truth of their situations.
While it does have its critics, (what doesn’t?) I personally think Ill Manors and Ben Drew deserve a lot more recognition for this gritty, brave and unflinching look into London town.
WICKED RATING: 7/10 [usr 7]
Title: Ill Manors
Director: Ben Drew
Writer(s): Ben Drew
Stars: Riz Ahmed, Ed Skrein, Natalie Press
Studio/ Production Co: Microwave, Film London, BBC Films
Budget: $100,000 (estimated)
Length: 121 mins
Sub-Genre: Crime, Drama