Clearly not content with writing, performing and producing hugely successful multimillion-selling records, and adding acting to his CV when he’s not busy, Ben Drew, or Plan B, has chucked in filmmaking for good measure.
As a huge Tarantino fan (who isn’t?), Drew was always going to give linear, fluid storytelling a miss in favour of something more staggered and challenging. It’s a tricky feat; if it goes well then you feast with Pulp Fiction at the table of tasty treats, but if it goes badly then you eat from the bin with John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars.
Somewhat predictably, Drew has opted to tell an interweaving story based on the streets of London, specifically Forest Gate, where he grew up. iLL Manors examines the mindsets, morality and actions of several different characters, with plenty of grit and intensity, manifesting in both mental and physical form.
This might already sound a little similar to other Brit efforts such as Bullet Boy, Kidulthood and the sequel Adulthood, which featured Drew as a supporting actor, but there are plenty of issues to tackle and stories to tell on the streets and estates of London.
During the course of iLL Manors, we meet Kirby (Keith Coggins), a middle-aged drug dealer fresh from a prison term, and his former protégé Chris (Lee Allen), who now runs things around town, clearly possessing the intimidating physique to do so. The two are no longer allies, which has more than a little to do with Kirby’s treatment of Chris at a younger age.
Meanwhile, Ed (Ed Skrein), a drug dealer with a spiky temperament, and his friend Aaron (Riz Ahmed) are in search of the former’s phone, which seems to have been stolen by prostitute and crack-fanatic Michelle (Anouska Mond). As they hunt her down, it becomes clear that she will have to find another particularly grim and harrowing way to replace the cost of the phone, which she denies ever stealing in the first place.
On top of this we have Katya (Natalie Press), a new mother on the run from Russian mobsters who have been using her in a sickening sex trafficking scheme, whilst early teen Jake (Ryan De La Cruz) finds himself accepted into a violent gang, led by a criminal looking to test his young recruit’s immediate loyalty with a brutal task.