The Slick and Highly Referential “Us and Them” Borrows From the Best

That doesn’t make it good, however


You can list all the shit-stirring filmmakers Brit writer-director (and aspiring shit-stirrer) Joe Martin lifts from in his debut feature, Us and Them: Scorsese, Spike Lee, Danny Boyle, Snatch-era Guy Ritchie. But, of course, the one he rips off the most is Quentin Tarantino.

This flick has many of QT’s trademarks: a time-jumping storyline, entertainingly mundane conversations, a kitschy soundtrack (both the Damned and the O’Jays make musical appearances). Hell, one character even takes a bloody hit to the gut. Watching this movie took me back to the mid-Nineties era of Tarantino knockoffs.

Us is basically a melding of Tarantino and Ken Loach (another filmmaker whose style this guy ganks!) about a trio of frustrated, working-class joes who hatch a plan to break into the home of a wealthy banker (Timothy Bentinck). While two of them (Andrew Tiernan and Daniel Kendrick) just want to grab some expensive watches and hightail it outta there, the ringleader (Jack Roth, the son of Tarantino regular Tim Roth!) decides to make this a major political statement on behalf of all the poor souls who’ve been laid off, downsized, and basically shat on by the rich.

It’s a plan that obviously does not go well, descending into a gory mess. You get that Martin wanted to make an edgy, snarky cautionary tale about what happens when the haves push the have-nots one step too far. But as sleek and polished as Us and Them looks, it finds Martin not only biting from more established filmmakers, but biting off more than he can chew.

Us and Them
Written and directed by Joe Martin
The Orchard
Opens March 16, Cinema Village


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