Watching a 'protest' movie is always a challenge. Will it be a true exposé of the social ills affecting the community concerned, or just a rambling lamentation of how the world could be better?
I had no preconceived ideas, and was rewarded with, at first, a fresh-looking film that, to my non-prejudiced eyes, was new and engaging. Director Ben Drew sprays London landscapes across the screen in yellow tints that remind the viewer more of an MTV rap video than a cinema vehicle.
Ill Manors is reminiscent of SW9, a low-budget piece that highlighted the squalor of inner-London estate living, complete with scenes of rioting and violence. While Ill Manors offers a gang-load of violent tropes, it lacks the foresight of its predecessor. Where were the images from last summer's vandalism? They would surely have added a better framework to Drew's story of deprivation, smuggling, drugs, prostitution and gang murder than the intrusive rapper soundtrack.
It would be easy to compare the film to the gangster-full works of Tarantino, but where Tarantino is skilful at getting inside the characters of his lowlifes and making you care, Drew's motley crew of social misfits remain just movie-video ciphers, rather than the anti-heroes of an insightful social drama. Where are the social workers? The politicians?
However, Michael Gove could take a leaf out of Drew's book: if you want to reach the kids, do it to a nose-bleeding rap score.