Review: iLL Manors

Tying in with his album of the same name, UK rapper Ben ‘Plan B’ Drew makes his writing and directing feature debut with this music-fuelled chronicle of London’s crime-centric culture, smashing together the lives of four drug dealers, one user and two prostitutes.

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Already impressing as both a musician and an actor, Ben ‘Plan B’ Drew cracks his directorial knuckles with this feature debut – a British crime chronicle that smashes together the lives of four drug dealers, a drug abuser and two sex workers. Unapologetic in its portrayal of London street life, it’s impossible not to be disgusted at the nature of the characters presented, such as the dealer who cheaply whores out a prostitute based on the thin accusation that she owes him a phone, or the gangbanger who intimidates a young lad into doing his dirty work. It’s about as flattering to London as City of God was to Brazil.

The multiple plot threads are impressively woven together – even if they rely on a number of coincidences and contrivances. As a result, the film effectively shows chaos theory at work inside a hostile environment. Though Drew doesn’t offer any potential ways of fixing the sinking ship, he does give a more damning survival solution: evacuate.

At times iLL Manors breaks off into musically narrative sequences, correlating to a track on Plan B’s album of the same name. It’s an effectively slick method to tell a backstory, but these segments are scattered in a sporadic way that messes with the flow of the film, the songs fantastic but the overall effect a tad jarring. I’d love to see Drew try this technique again though, for if he strikes the right balance, he could have a writing/directing career to rival his musical one.