ill Manors (Movie Review)

There are a lot of things in media that go out of their way to shock as a way of getting a message across, or perhaps just as a method of boosting sales. A Clockwork Orange is an example of a film that uses revolting and shocking imagery as a way of getting a message across, but as classic as that film may be, I felt the way this was used seemed more like a cry for attention rather than a way of proving a point (I know there's a bunch of movie snobs out there who are ready to shout at me about how wrong I am). But when you watch ill Manors, you know exactly what writer, director and co-scorer Ben Drew wanted to achieve and his hard work definitely paid off.

If you are not familiar with who Ben Drew is, British Alt:Mag readers might know him better as Plan B, a singer/rapper who has achieved quite a bit of chart success in recent years. He started off by releasing a very raw and dark hip-hop record, before grabbing mainstream attention by making a soul album. Once he had the public's attention, he went back to his raw rap roots and slapped us in the face with his track ill Manors, one of the best mainstream protest songs of recent years. The song deals with both the causes and the consequences of the 2011 riots across the United Kingdom, concentrating on society's attitude towards the disadvantaged youth population of the United Kingdom. The song was the lead single from his album of the same name, which also happened to be a soundtrack for the film of the same name. The song ill Manors wanted to highlight these problems, and the film is a creation of a man who knew that a song wasn't enough to prove his point.

The film's story is set in Forest Gate, London (which happens to be where Plan B is from) follows six individuals, all struggling to survive in the world of violence, drugs and crime that engulfs them. There is ex-dealer Kirby, who has just been released from prison, thug Ed who will stop at nothing to find his missing phone, sex worker Michelle who is looking for her next drug hit, young Jake who finds himself drawn into joining a local gang, Chris, Kirby's old protégé, Katya, a foreign sex worker with a baby trying to escape the clutches of her pimp, and Aaron, the main protagonist who is just trying to do the right thing, despite his world being surrounded in negativity.
Just reading about the characters shows you that this film is no happy affair. But the film doesn't just scratch the surface, it really goes out of its way to show you the world that these character's are so familiar with. This results in many scenes not only being shocking, but sometimes very disturbing. But that is what Plan B wanted to achieve, he wanted to show us that while we are chilling, happy in our cosy houses, this is real life for ill-fated individuals in the United Kingdom, brutalised by their environment. He also wanted to provide us with a truthful perspective of these people's lives and that behind the newspapers sensationalist headlines are real people in real pain, with no easy way out. Plan B raps about this in the opening song of the film:

Are you sitting comfortably?
Well put your seatbelts on, 'Cause you're in for a harrowing ride.
'Cause this is ill Manors, were dark shit goes on at night.
I am the narrator.
The voice that guides the blind, following not with your ears but your mind.
And allow me to take you back, and forth through time.
To explain the significance of things you may think are insignificant now.
But won't... farther down the line!

Oh, did I not mention that Plan B provides narration in parts of the film through his music and lyrics? Well Plan B needs to get a pat on the back for this, because it is absolutely genius. Don't believe me? Well, you need to see the film for yourself and I'm pretty sure that you will. Music is where this film stands out, but what is great is that it isn't just a film with a great soundtrack, the soundtrack is relevant to the film and the telling of the plot. Plan B's insightful (and often angry) lyrics add truth, description and on a few occasions, back story to the events in the film. The songs explain the significance of certain events and discuss the politics for those who need a nudge in the right direction. Some individuals might find his accent a little hard to understand at times, and if you are one of those individuals, you need to go look up the lyrics on the internet or watch the film with subtitles, because these lyrics are not to be missed.
But not all of the music is focused around vocals. The deluxe edition of the ill Manors album by Plan B, comes with a bonus disc that contains the film's score, composed by Plan B and producer Al Shux, and what a score it is. The score is incredibly dark and when mixed with the horrific events of the movie, can really send shivers down your spine, and the hip hop songs have a similar effect on you as well (particularly the song 'The Runaway' which narrates Katya's back story). 

Throughout the film, the plot jumps around through different characters and events. A criticism I did find was that it was hard to keep track on all the character names. However, they are all memorable faces and characters played by decent actors, so I just called them names like 'guy with grey fitted cap' and 'gang member #1'. It is important to note that no event is meaningless in ill Manors, because everything has a purpose, and all these characters living seperate lives eventually come together (the ending montage is something to watch out for to explain what I mean especially) and everybody gets their just desserts (yes, I just quoted Hot Fuzz).

It isn't often that a film has an affect on me like ill Manors did. I know that some people's lives are difficult and some people have it tough but I had no comprehension that young people's lives could be so brutal. This film has really shown me how absolutely horrifying it can really be, and frankly it angers and disgusts me that our government continues to use these young individuals as images of 'Broken Britain' - worthless and disposable. There are plenty of films based around similar deprived areas like KiDULTHOOD, AdULTHOOD and Shank, but I kind of feel those films glorify gang violence. ill Manors however, really made me think and did its best to let me know that this gang violence is not something that should be lived, and what is interesting about that is, the more I think, the more I realise that this film is one of the most overlooked films of 2012.

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