Socialist Worker

Ill Manors: Plan B’s gangster film fails to rise above the clichés

by Sai Englert
Issue No. 2306

Musician Ben Drew, aka Plan B, turned heads earlier this year with his “riot single” Ill Manors.

The track and video captured the atmosphere, backdrop and rage of last August’s riots like no one else has managed.

Many people will expect Drew’s new film, which shares the track’s title, to do the same.

Set in east London and shot using professional and untrained actors, the film could have been our La Haine or Babylon.

But instead it’s far closer to conventional fare like Kidulthood or Rollin’ With The Nines.

Ill Manors is yet another film where the only things going on in our estates are violence and drug dealing.

Working class women are shown as crackheads or prostitutes, while working class men are dealers or pimps.

The film isn’t badly executed and it uses a couple of fresh devices that give it a nice rhythm.

Sections of it appear as if filmed on smart phones.

Characters are introduced with tracks narrated by Plan B that fill in their back stories.

Storylines cross and tangle nicely, keeping the viewer watching and alert.

But the constant references to broken homes, single parents and parentless children grate.

The assumption is that none of this would happen if there had been more parental love or better education—and that other factors such as poverty and exclusion are irrelevant.

Of course this attitude chimes perfectly with the government’s preferred explanation for the riots.

If you enjoy the gangster genre, go see Ill Manors for its neat direction and vivid characters.

But if you’re expecting a deeper social commentary on youth and the riots, this isn’t the film for you.

Ill Manors, directed by Ben Drew, released Wednesday 6 June

Sai’s review of the Ill Manors single is at http://bit.ly/swPlanB


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