SXSW 2017 Review: ‘Us and Them’ Class Warfare Comes to a Head
‘Us and Them’ Class Warfare Comes to a Head
Tired of the top 1% owning most of the wealth of the world? Feeling like they should be taken down a notch or two? Think they need to be shown what it is like to be one of the 99%?
Then you would fit right in with Danny a man who is fed up with how things are and decides, with the help of two of his buddies, that it is time for the working class to rise up. The group decides to start with a wealthy banker and the banker’s family. Danny wants to put a little terror in their lives and record it. Then share the recordings with the world to send a message to the rest of the wealthy that the revolution of the working class is at hand. Unfortunately, things do not go according to plan. While Danny is motivated by ideas of revolution, his “friends” have more selfish goals.
Director and writer Joe Martin tells a story that is dark, gritty, comical, and poignant. The screenplay has dialog along the lines of a Quentin Tarantino script and the direction is in the style of Guy Ritchie. The film moves back and forth through the timeline, each jump prefaced with a phrase like chapter headings in a book. The style in which the narrative is presented keeps the viewer guessing what will happen next. This unpredictability is aided by the performances of the cast, namely Jack Roth’s Danny.
Jack Roth presents a layered character who is guided by his frustration with the way things are and driven by a need to change them. You can feel the emotions constantly bubbling underneath the surface of his character as he tries to keep a level head when his plan goes up in flames. Roth’s Danny is a character that the audience feels sympathy for but we also realize that he his attempts to bring change are the wrong way. It is the strongest performance in the film. His two partners are played well by Daniel Kendrick and Andrew Tiernan but they felt more like your standard sidekicks. They do get to have some of the more comical moments in the film as well as some of the darkest moments.
The tone of this film continually switches which came as a surprise. While described as a Horror/Crime Thriller, there were more humorous scenes than expected. I enjoyed the back-and-forth in tone but I do feel that it takes away from the film’s message and the intensity.
There were scenes where the cinematography was fantastic. For instance, early on the characters are on a country road in the middle of a wide open field. It was beautifully shot and helped setup how far away from the city they were. There were also some camera choices that were a bit distracting, namely in a pub scene where the three men are discussing what is wrong with this generation. The camera continually moves around the table and it became distracting as the scene went on. There were a few other moments where the camera movement took away from the scene but not enough to negatively impact the overall film.
Us and Them is rough around the edges but a very entertaining film. The characters will keep you guessing and the script will have you smiling one minute then sliding you to the edge of your seat the next. The continuous shift in tone may turn some people off to the film but I think fans of early works of Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino will really get into it. Cinema has always had a reputation of reflecting the current mood of the age it was created in and Us and Them is an example of this.