Out Now On-Demand
We are all products of our environment. Some environments are just harder to survive in.
Tying in with his album of the same name, UK rapper Ben ‘Plan B’ Drew makes his writing and directing feature debut with this music-fuelled chronicle of London’s crime-centric culture, smashing together the lives of four drug dealers, one user and two prostitutes.
After 15 years in prison, ex-dealer Kirby (Keef Coggins) wants three simple things; to take back his turf, to get laid and to take revenge on the gangsters who have disrespected him. But a humiliating run-in with his former protégé sparks a chain of violence, vengeance and lethal reprisals that ripple through the community of drug dealers, pimps and innocents all swept up into the cycle of violence and deception. Then there is Aaron (Riz Ahmed), street-wise yet vulnerable, just trying to get by and do the right thing while his ruthless friend Ed (Ed Skrein) will stop at nothing to reclaim a mobile phone, leading to deadly consequences.
- Ben Drew(feature debut)
Rating: R18 violence, offensive language, drug use & sex scenes
Already impressing as both a musician and an actor, Ben “Plan B” Drew cracks his directorial knuckles with this feature debut – a British crime chronicle that smashes together the lives of four drug dealers, a drug abuser and two sex workers. Unapologetic in its portrayal of London street life, it’s impossible not to be disgusted at the nature of the characters presented, such as the dealer who cheaply whores out a prostitute based on the thin accusation that she owes him a phone, or the gangbanger who intimidates a young lad into doing his dirty work. It’s about as flattering to London as City of God was to Brazil.
The multiple plot threads are impressively woven together – even if they rely on a number of coincidences and contrivances. As a result, the film effectively shows chaos theory at work inside a hostile environment. Though Drew doesn’t offer any potential ways of fixing the sinking ship, he does give a more damning survival solution: evacuate.
At times iLL Manors breaks off into musically narrative sequences, correlating to a track on Plan B’s album of the same name. It’s an effectively slick method to tell a backstory, but these segments are scattered in a sporadic way that messes with the flow of the film, the songs fantastic but the overall effect a tad jarring. I’d love to see Drew try this technique again though, for if he strikes the right balance, he could have a writing/directing career to rival his musical one.
Little White Lies (UK)
Time Out London
Total Film (UK)