12th October 2018 (UK Limited Theatrical) 23rd October (VOD Release)
Angry and frustrated, working class Danny aims to kick start a revolution by turning the tables on the establishment with a deadly game of chance.
Jack Roth, Andrew Tiernan, Tim Bentinck
According to a 2018 Oxfam report, the World’s richest 1% get 82% of the entire planet’s wealth. It’s a sickening statistic if true and in Joe Martin’s Us and Them, a trio of working class friends have had enough. They decide to take matters into their own hands, kidnapping the daughter of a wealthy banker to gain entry to her father’s extensive estate.
When inside, the leader Danny (Joe Roth) begins a deadly game of roulette in which the stakes have never been higher. But when his friends see just how the other half lives with the potential to take some of the possessions for themselves, the agenda for them abruptly changes.
There’s no denying the message of Us and Them is an important one. The current situation of wealth distribution is indeed enraging, so the frustration shown by the three ‘white van men’ is understandable. But when speaking of the plights of the working class, the script never feels anything more than regurgitation of ill-researched sound bites and buzz quotes from various internet message boards or tabloid newspaper opinion columns.
I never grasped just what tone Us and Them was going for either. Beginning with sharp-tongued humour and a punkish attitude (with an in-your-face soundtrack to match that eventually mellows to classical cuts), the film wildly veers between bumbling comedy, mean spirited aggression as well as attempts at creating sympathy for the three leads in the final third. But with such an erratic approach, it’s hard to feel anything for the friends, even though I could identify with their reasoning.
This inconsistent nature of the film muddles the overall meaning of Us and Them too. Is writer/director Joe Martin sticking up for the working class, or through the slapstick humour and fickle qualities displayed is he claiming they’re as incompetent as they’re made out to be? It’s a shame the film isn’t as focused as the potential it holds, because there’s definitely some standout moments which hint at a better picture if it were more coherent.
A fabulously awkward introductory dinner early on is a prime example of where the film gets it right, as is Danny’s unpredictability in an especially fiery situation. But these are usually followed with scenarios or events that are at odds with the peak moments which preceded them.
It’s not for the lack of trying by some of the cast though. Roth (son of veteran actor Tim) channels the talent and charm of his father as he directs his snarling vitriol at the filthy rich, while Andrew Tiernan is the most believable as a man pushed to the brink. The third man is so ignored that he barely gets any screen time and the well-off trio on the other side of the attack have little more to do than plead for their lives.
Ultimately though, for all its good intentions albeit through violent actions, Us and Them probably does more harm than good for the image of the working class.
Us and Them is now showing in select UK Cinemas. It will be available on VOD platforms from 23rd October 2018.
Joe Roth showing promise
Confused tone and approach muddles overall message
Cutout characters other than Roth and Tiernan