Joe Martin’s Us and Them is a violent riff on the inequalities of contemporary British society that incense articulate young working-class Danny (Jack Roth, channelling his father Tim) and what he does about it.
Class Warfareby Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Class-warrior Danny is angry about the state of a country that’s gone wrong. That includes amongst many other things the chasm between rich and poor, zero-hours contracts, unaffordable housing and the yuppie colonisation of his traditional local boozer. So with his two friends he plans a violent attack against an extremely wealthy banker (a surprising Tim Bentinck from The Archers) and his family, home and property. By filming it with his own politicised commentary and putting it on social media, he hopes to somehow trigger some kind of response – to teach him a lesson, start a revolution, perhaps – though it’s not really explicit.
But of course it doesn’t go to plan and the balaclavas eventually come off. His confrontation with the banker is a black-and-white culture clash with an unsympathetic bloated-capitalist hate figure, but there are also twists, surprises and a bit of a Tarantino-esque blood bath. Danny didn’t anticipate that his friends Tommy (Andrew Tiernan) and Sean (Daniel Kendrick) would turn out to be distracted once the attack is under way by their own agendas that are mercenary rather than political.
Us and Them is writer/director Joe Martin’s first feature. It’s a very timely theme, but also a genre film with an unresolved mixture of styles. Some parts – such as the home invasion – are pure Poundshop Haneke, though they are genuinely uncomfortable and unsettling, making ironic use of a classical music soundtrack, particularly Vivaldi. The blokey conversations in the pub seem a bit Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – Danny’s rants to his mates are well-founded but they’re monologues because he’s talking to sidekicks. There’s comedy too. It feels as if there are three different films struggling to get out and though it can be tense, this can undercut it at times.
However, it’s sparkily shot and edited, and the camerawork is interesting. It makes good use of techniques such as Rashomon-like retelling from the viewpoints of different characters, jokey intertitles and a varied musical soundtrack. If Martin can produce style like this on a low budget, let’s see what he’ll come up next time with a higher budget and more resources.
Us and Them is released on 12 October 2018 in the UK, on VOD 23 October, Q&A with Jack Roth and Tim Bentinck at Genesis Cinema, Mile End Road, London on 11 October 2018, book tickets here.