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Undated Film Still Handout from Ill Manors. See PA Feature FILM Film Reviews. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Revolver Entertainment. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FILM Film Reviews.
Undated Film Still Handout from Ill Manors. See PA Feature FILM Film Reviews. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Revolver Entertainment. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FILM Film Reviews.

Ill Manors (18)

Starring: Riz Ahmed, Ed Skrein, Natalie Press, Lee Allen, Anouska Mond, Keith Coggins, Ryan De La Cruz, Nick Sagar, Jo Hartley.

Director: Ben Drew.

Running time: 121 mins

IT’S a hard knock life for six godforsaken denizens of London in the gritty directorial debut of Ben Drew aka Plan B.

Purportedly based on real people and real events, Ill Manors pulls no punches in its depiction of the lengths some people will go to in order to survive on the streets of the capital.

It’s a visually arresting descent into the darkest recesses of human suffering, cutting together different film stocks to create a nightmarish vision of a city under constant surveillance from CCTV cameras, mobile phones and nosey neighbours.

Drew introduces his central protagonists in the best way he knows how: with a potty-mouthed rap and some similarly gritty imagery.

It’s a cute injection of pace that keeps the first hour zipping along at a fair lick before the sinewy plot strands become entangled and the screen glisters with anguish and despair.

Drug dealer Ed (Ed Skrein) is caught in a police sting and he quickly offloads incriminating evidence to associate Aaron (Riz Ahmed).

Flashbacks to their formative years at St Erica’s children’s home for boys affirm their fraternal bond.

While Aaron waits for Ed’s release from custody, he crosses paths with illegal immigrant Katya (Natalie Press), who has been sold into sex trafficking and must make a stark decision about her newborn child.

Torn between his head and his heart, Aaron faces an agonising choice of his own that has repercussions for the landlord of the Earl of Essex pub and his wife Carol (Jo Hartley).

Aaron also encounters junkie Michelle (Anouska Mond), who stumbles down a sickening and destructive path in search of her next hit.

Elsewhere, schoolboy Jake (Ryan De La Cruz) attempts to blag some gear from gang leader Marcel (Nick Sagar), but acceptance comes at a price.

Former dealer Kirby (Keith Coggins) tries to re-assimilate into a world that dragged him down 15 years ago.

Meanwhile, emotionally volatile dealer Chris (Lee Allen) loses his cool when his younger sister is caught in the crossfire of a revenge shooting and two sassy teenagers, with dreams of a modelling contract, are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Ill Manors is an assured debut that uses a robust script as a solid foundation for flashes of directorial brio.

The fractured chronology allows Drew to hold back dramatic resolutions to the myriad conflicts until the very last second.

The ensemble cast reward the writer-director with compelling portrayals of tortured souls who have almost given up hope of escaping the misery. In most cases, their pessimism is well placed.

Rating: 3/5