14th Oct2018

‘Us and Them’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Jack Roth, Andrew Tiernan, Tim Bentinck, Sophie Colquhoun, Daniel Kendrick, Carolyn Backhouse, Paul Westwood, Louis Dempsey | Written and Directed by Joe Martin

us-them-poster

Us and Them… Sums up the current state of the scocio-political climate perfectly don’t you think? The haves and the have-nots. The rich and the poor. It’s a class war that has been raging for longer than many can remember and one that won’t be ending anytime soon. And that idea of a class war, the struggle between rich and poor, seems to be what writer/director Joe Martin is aiming for with this, his first feature film. Only he does it by way of a home invasion thriller!

The film tells the story of three rough and ready British lads, intent on making a grand and brutish statement on economic inequality in the UK, use one upper crust family as their sacrificial lamb. When disenfranchised Danny (Jack Roth) confronts wealthy banker, Conrad (Tim Bentinck), he plans to teach him a lesson he’ll never forget. Travelling to Conrad’s home with his daughter Philippa (Sophie Colquhoun), the family are shocked to see he is from the “wrong” social class. They soon learn he is an imposter and thus begins this wild night kicks into high gear. Tensions escalate as the intruders hold the family hostage and force the father (Tim Bentinck) to choose between wife and daughter in a game of Russian roulette. Danny’s seething anger is palpable and only countered by Conrad’s attitude toward privileged and entitlement.

Whilst, yes, this is a home invasion thriller, Us and Them is also something of an in your face political statement, with Jack Roth’s character Danny constantly falling into diatribes on the unfair state of society – how the rich are getting richer and the poor, despite working their fingers to the bone – longer hours, zero hour contracts and a later and later retirement date, are getting poorer. At times these monologues come across as heavy-handed yet they are actually neccessary – adding some much-needed emotional and intellectual depth to what could have otherwise been a generic thriller.

But its not just the socio-politcal undertones that raise Us and Them above similar genre films. Visually the film looks like a product of a different era, resembling 90s thrillers like Dirty Weekend and Funny Games. The stark visuals combined with a murky look to the colour timing, means that – at least visually – the film looks as gritty and grimy as its story. Martin’s film is also very reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange – insomuch that it mixes abject violence with beautiful cinematography and music that is diametrically opposite of what we’re seeing on screen; all of which work together to reflect the twisted mindset of those involved as it did in Kubrick’s film.

Unfortunately Us and Them does fall apart in the latter part of the film, foregoing any of its substance and decending into a standard “home invasion gone wrong” plot as Danny and his cohorts argue over the what and why of their situation – with greed getting the better of some, belying everything Danny is actually trying to fight against.

Us and Them ultimately concludes on a downbeat ending that mirrors every issue and every injustice that Danny has been talking about, and fighting against, throughout the film; leaving the film on a solemn note and one that should have the audience questioning the unfairness of the “dog eat dog” socio-politcal climate as much as Danny did.

Us and Them is on limited release across the UK now. The film comes to VOD on October 23rd.

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