ANTI-SOCIAL Film Review & Trailer.
Directed By Reg Traviss
Writer/Director Reg Traviss and his excellent cast take two types of independent film and successfully mash them together to create a very ambitious (if a little flawed) independent British film. Traviss has impressively stretched his small budget to its very limit, getting many bangs for his buck. The two sides of the film are represented by two brothers.
Dee (Gregg Sulkin) is a thoughtful graffiti artist who starts to rise in the underground art scene. His life is mostly about hanging out at his anarchist friends’ warehouses, creating his art on walls around London whilst running away from police and spending time with his American model girlfriend Kirsten (played effervescently by Meghan Markle). Their relationship is quite sweet and Markle is a great anomaly in the film, this very boisterous and bubbly American in the middle of a grey and dark London.
Dee’s brother Marcus (Josh Myers) is a very different animal. Though very sweet in his own way, Marcus is an outlaw. With his childhood friends (including the British MC Devlin who gives real danger in his performance as Nicky) Marcus and his gang specialise in smash and grab jobs. They roll up to a jewellery store, smash their way in and take as much merchandise as they can before making a fast getaway. Marcus’ story is all action and there are several very well done heist scenes directly lifted from real events. Marcus provides most of the kinetic momentum of the film but it is nicely paced as the two stories take place together and counterpoint each other as Marcus falls and Dee rises. Dee’s arthouse storyline is thoughtful and filled with modern ideas around art and culture though some of the scenes discussing art are a little heavy handed. Marcus is increasingly pulled down into a cycle of reckless violence and war with a rival gang (headed by a broody Skepta) which Dee is slowly pulled into. There is an authenticity to both sides of Anti-Social. The film has one of the most simple and realistic drug deals I’ve seen on screen. Some of my favourite scenes are small moments such as Dee’s reaction around one of his illegal pieces being covered up by the council… but instead of paint, they cover it up with a protective shield thereby embracing his rebellious work rather than condemning it. Traviss shows a keen eye for small moments like these which really do stand out and raise the films quality.
The supporting characters are also drawn well from very little screen time. The film is sprawling and although Traviss takes his time to build up his characters and their relationships, there are certain elements lacking which undermine the ending. The rival gang are given little screen time to be fully rounded characters with their own motivations; this is particularly uncomfortable during a key scene in the middle of the film involving violence towards women. They are evil and they do very bad things but we’re not sure why. At the end there is a certain hollowness as key supporting characters are bumped off fairly casually with little reaction from Dee and Marcus. This would not be such a problem had the cast been such a great ensemble. There is real warmth in the friendships and relationships; in particular it really helps that the two brothers though very different, really do have chemistry together. Gregg Sulkin (though slightly miscast as a street kid Dee) gives a sensitive performance while Josh Myers’ charismatic portrayal of Marcus shows us a man who is very much living in the now with little regard for consequences. The film is strengthened by a brilliant supporting cast and there are several smaller characters who make an impact, in particular Caroline Ford’s femme fatale Rochelle and a criminally underused Andrew Shim who lights up the film in his few short appearances as Dee’s best friend.
Overall Anti-Social is a solid multi-layered film with lots of lovely moments of small authentic details about modern London. Reg Traviss builds a strong tapestry which despite a few limitations, is highly worth a look on the big screen.