Us and Them packs a retro,post mordern punch at division. The bigger picture of the increasing divide between the haves and have nots in Britain and the US has been lost a little in the Brouhaha of Brexit and Trump. But in Us & Them, Joe Martin wades into the fetid cesspit of inequality like The Joker from Batman armed with kalishnikovs on each shoulder which were very fun to watch online. But there is much more to this story than first appears. When Danny (Jack Roth, the spitting, snarling image of his father, Tim) and his two accomplices takeover the mansion of wealthy capitalist, Conrad (Tim Bentinck) we’re led on a rollercoaster of emotions, with not a little cringing and smiles along the way. Roth, of course, gives an outstanding visceral performance, mesmerizing and repulsive at the same time. But to only see the punk rawness of this full movie, the simple political revenge plot and the obvious stylistic inspirations of Tarantino, Ritchie, Haneke, Luc Godard et al, is to miss the deeper subtleties at work here. Yes Martin has drawn richly from these sources, but he has done so with a knowing wink of post modern irony and respect to his audience.
This is so retro 90’s it hurts to download the movie free. Slick, clever and stylish. And funny. Pastiche in fact. One wonders how seriously we are supposed to take any of it – including the political polemics. Through Danny and Conrad, it’s as if Martin is laughing at the simplistic polarized views that have landed us in the mess we find ourselves in. The fact that the film is not quite what it first seems is hardly surprising as deception is a theme that is reflected in scene after scene. The boyfriend, the drugs, the petrol, the gun, the ‘friends’… Perhaps Martin is trying to tell us something more universal. I loved the earthiness of the film, the rawness yet slickness. The juxtaposition of classical and punk, the tragi-comic-ness and the elemental motifs of fire and water that abound. Ultimately I loved the playfulness of it and the sheer entertainment that keeps you glued to the screen at every twist and turn. And there are a few.