Class War: ‘Us And Them’ reviewed

‘A mashup of Tarantino and Alan Clark’: British director Joe Martin’s angry, cynical, witty and fast moving debut feature.

“There is one Reservoir Dogs connection through the lead performances; Jack Roth is the son of Mr. Orange himself. His committed, seething performance is reminiscent of the rage and anger that his father Tim Roth displayed at a young age in Alan Clarke’s Made In Britain

Writer and director Joe Martin’s spin on the home invasion genre tackles the issue of class war head on with his promising debut that comes across like a mashup of Tarantino and Alan Clarke.

Opening with the image of a drowning rat the film lays its cards on the table immediately with what may come across as an obvious metaphor for what follows but it can be argued that Martin, and his lead protagonist Danny, played by Jack Roth, simply do not have the time or patience to engage in such subtleties. Indeed, the film wastes no time at all in getting straight to the point and having Danny scream out the (sub)text of the film himself before the credits have even had a chance to roll.

Danny is meeting his girlfriend Philippa’s parents for the first time and immediately there is a tension between him and her father Conrad, Tim Bentinck, whose sneering disposition says everything he thinks about this young man who is well below his daughter’s station. To say that things go south is an understatement and matters get worse when two men in balaclavas make their entrance wandering why the plan has gone so wrong so quickly. To say anymore would be to give the film’s surprises and secrets away, although it can be remarked that the film’s structure is reminiscent of Reservoir Dogs in revealing how everyone came to be in the situation they find themselves over their heads in.

Low budget British cinema taking its cues from Tarantino is nothing new but thankfully Martin’s script foregoes glamorising the guns and swearing elements that the majority of writers and directors go for in the mistaken idea that it will elevate their own work to the same level. Although there is harsh language there is often a point to it and is witty enough of the time on its own terms; one of Danny’s accomplices remarks on his crusade, stating that he is “Like Martin Luther King, but white obviously and more violent.”  Split into chapters the wit even spreads to the headings with such titles as “Wanking will be the downfall of my generation.”

Photo by David Cook – © Into The Woods Films Ltd

There is one more Reservoir Dogs comparison to be made and is actually more of a connection through the lead performances; Jack Roth is the son of Mr. Orange himself. His committed, seething performance is reminiscent of the rage and anger that his father Tim Roth displayed at a young age in Alan Clarke’s Made In Britain. Although Danny’s views are not as extreme or as hateful as that earlier films Trevor, both carry an articulate sense of anger and despair at the state of the union. Danny’s motivations however carry over from a past event that gives the film a keen sense of tragedy.

Tragedy is a vein that becomes more and more apparent as the film progresses, factions splitting as the original goal loses focus, the confused and angry working class turning on itself, forced into despair by an unfeeling overlord. The film however balances itself neatly with its serious subject matter and a number of amusing sequences. The sense of balance can also be found within the soundtrack which is equal parts classical music and equal parts punk, particularly Sleaford Mods who feature very heavily.

The mainly singular location of the film does come across as slightly stagy and there are a couple of straight to camera monologues in the early stages that come across as heavy-handed but such quibbles are only fleeting. The biggest criticism that could be levelled at the film is its lack of not willing to give the other side a rational voice, but in this age of austerity, forced unemployment and continuous lies from a government that holds nothing but disdain for the working and now middle classes who would want to hear them squirm and excuse themselves?

This is an angry, cynical film but one that successfully avoids soapboxing thanks to its fast-moving pace and a witty, scabrous script that often surprises but refuses to give easy answers. It may not exactly be a feelgood film but it is one that is refreshing in its honesty and social awareness, a rare quality that is hard to find in British cinema these days.

‘Us And Them’ starring Jack Roth, Tim Bentinck and Andrew Tiernan will be released in cinemas on 12 October 2018 and on VOD 23 October. Run Time: 83 mins / Cert: TBC.

In advance of the film coming out on October 12, there is also a special Q&A screening taking place with JACK ROTH and TIM BENTINCK next Thursday October 11 at The Mile End Genesis cinema. For more information and to book tickets, click HERE.

❉ Iain MacLeod was raised on the North coast of Scotland on a steady diet of 2000AD and Moviedrome. Now living in Glasgow as a struggling screenwriter he still buys too many comics and blu-rays. Has never seen a ghost but heard two talking in his bedroom when he was 4.

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