SXSW 2017: Us and Them
Creators who showed the slightest prescient towards the seething anger that would overflow in advance of the Brexit vote and the era of Trump, will be celebrated for seeing more than populist rhetoric, but the real acrimony at the status quo that working class people felt and would drive them to radical action. Joseph Martin’s debut feature avoids the xenophobia and globalist angles of real world working class anger, and instead focuses on the strict class differences in British society.
After a chance encounter spurred by the gentrification of his working class neighborhood, Danny (Jack Roth, son of Academy Award Nominated actor Tim Roth) decides to make an example out of the upper class family of a banker (Tim Bentinck). With his accomplices, they plan to rob and execute the family, then stream the event on the internet as a warning and a call to action that ‘they’ (the working class) outnumber ‘them’ (the aristocratic 1%). An imperfectly executed plan leads to a taught back and forth as pieces of the story are filled in with creative time jumps and titles cards.
Martin’s work has a kinetic energy that borders on frantic. His direction will occasionally exhibit the slow patience of Michael Haneke in Funny Games, and then run through a series of cuts centered on Jack Roth that remind you of Quentin Tarantino's work in Reservoir Dogs. It’s engaging and helps sustain a story that occasionally drags as it finds a way to balance the mindlessness of the violence happening to the banker’s family while balancing the sociopolitical frustration that impedes Danny’s life.
A twist on Danny’s intentions towards the end of the story reinvigorates the story to conclusion; this twist doesn’t rely on the political zeitgeist critics and the filmmakers will point as proof of the brilliance of their film, but exists as an example of a screenwriter that knows his characters. Overall, this is a memorable debut for Martin and a potential star making moment for Roth as an actor who plays thinking British criminals.