On a bleak East London estate, Aaron (Ahmed) is a low-life dealer hanging out with his thuggish best pal Ed (Skrein). When Ed's phone goes missing, they trace it to crack-addict Michelle (Mond), who they force to turn tricks to pay Ed back. Meanwhile, a young kid (Indianda) must prove himself if he wants to join a gang led by Marcel (Sagar). Later, Aaron has a chance encounter with terrified Katya (Press), who abandons her baby with him. Unable to find her, Aaron lets Ed arrange a black-market adoption.
To say that the each story strand takes unexpected turns is an understatement, and Drew's script is careful to put everything into cautionary social context.
He's not exactly saying that these people deserve the misery they get, but it's not far from that. Each character pays a price for the terrible decisions they make, but then it's not like they have much choice: in this segment of British society, life is cheap and often tragically short, a hopeless downward spirals from birth.
Drew shoots and edits with considerable artistry, catching colours, shadows and rhythms, with a character-based focus that delivers some strong, punchy moments. The film is punctuated with music-videos in which the main characters sing their grim back-stories. Even though these songs are rather bland (as opposed to the storming title track), the terrific cast brings the characters to life with such jagged, realistic performances that that we feel like outsiders unable to understand what they're talking about.
Indeed, Drew's insistence on street-slang obscures many conversations. And the crowd of characters is bewildering since only some are inter-connected and none becomes an involving central figure. Ahmed's character arc is the most complete dramatically, but he's off-screen for large chunks of the over-long running time. So even though this gritty exploration of rough urban streets is well-made, it doesn't say anything new, it preaches far too forcefully, and it never gives us anyone to sympathise with.
Run time: 121 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 6th June 2012
Budget: $170 thousand
Distributed by: Revolver Entertainment
Production compaines: BBC Films, Film London, Microwave Film, Aimimage Productions, Gunslinger
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Fresh: 22 Rotten: 6
IMDB: 7.0 / 10
Director: Ben Drew
Producer: Atif Ghani
Screenwriter: Ben Drew
Starring: Riz Ahmed as Aaron, Ed Skrein as Ed, Natalie Press as Katya, Anouska Mond as Michelle, Lee Allen as Chris, Mehmet Ferda as Vladimir, Dannielle Brent as Jo, Martin Serene as Wild Bill, Nick Sagar as Marcel, Neil Large as Terry, Tom Bacon as Policeman, Chris Wilson as Police Dog Handler, Mohan Randhawa as Coke Buyer, Karina Diglyte as Brothel girl, Ben Drew as Cab driver, Jo Hartley as Carol
Also starring: Plan B
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