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April 27, 2015

Film + EntertainmentReview | by Francesco Cerniglia


Anti-Social is an ambitious British film, written and directed by Londoner Reg Traviss. Focusing on the lives of two brothers, Dee and Marcus, the film packs some punches as it explores the idea of different levels of anti-social behaviour and their consequences.

Inspired by true events, Traviss began writing Anti-Social after a succession of smash and grab robberies by motorcycle gangs were widely reported in the UK press. Much like The Business (2005) and other Brit gangster films before it, Anti-Social’s challenges seem to be maintaining the authenticity of its characters and their environment, whilst manipulating a smaller budget to provide enough moments of action to keep an audience engaged.

Younger brother Dee, played by the doe-eyed Greg Sulkin, is a street artist who creates intricate pieces of anti-establishment graffiti. Marcus, played by Josh Myers, heads-up a local gang who make their money from drug deals and theft. The two brothers’ storylines succeed in making you think about the real people stories behind acts of criminality, but at times the parallel narratives feel a bit too black and white for the sake of dramatic emphasis.

Whilst Dee meets with creative agents to pursue his career as a street artist, Marcus leads his gang, dressed in burkas, to rob a jewellery store full of customers. As Dee’s fortunes continue to rise, things get increasingly desperate for Marcus’ clan. The two storylines continue to grow further and further apart, making it hard to become fully invested in either set of characters. The rival gang’s revenge scene is the film’s bleakest moment, with genuinely unsettling scenes of violence and rape that jar with the lightness and humour brought by Dee’s story.

Music is one of Anti-Social’s strengths, with Traviss’ long-term collaborator George Kallis behind the score. The film opens with loud indie guitar riffs, as Dee and best friend Jason escape the police. On the other side of town, we hear Marcus and friends smashing through glass cases as alarm bells clash uncomfortably against the score. This cacophony of sounds rams you head first into the brothers’ chaotic world, fully immersing you into the story in the first few shots. Later, when the rival gang enters the club as Dee and Marcus celebrate, the jeering bars of Giggs’ ‘Look What The Cat Dragged In’ couldn’t be better placed in terms of capturing the tension between the two groups.

This considered approach to music and choice of artists carries over to the film’s assembled cast. Offering debut roles to two grime artists making the crossover into the mainstream music charts was a smart move by Traviss, with (James) Devlin transformed into an Irvine Welsh worthy hard-nut and Boy Better Know’s Skepta stepping easily into the role of the quietly menacing rival gang leader Leon.


Elsewhere, actress Caroline Ford plays a fierce femme fetale in the form of Rochelle, appearing like a downtrodden Jennifer Lawrence as she seduces men whilst skulking around in tracksuit bottoms and a hoodie. Arguably, Greg Sulkin and Meghan Markle (who plays on-screen girlfriend Kirsten) are the only slight miss-steps, feeling a little too glossy to lend themselves to the film’s grittier scenes.

Much like the smash and grab robberies it portrays, Anti-Social is a fast paced crash through British gangster film conventions, but with a bright cast and solid score that makes it worth a watch.

Anti-Social is released in UK cinemas on May 1st

Martha Ling