Us and Them (2017) [REVIEW] [SXSW ’17]

Guys, I did it! I’m back at SXSW! I am cool, once again! It only took another 20-hour drive to do it, but I am once again big time. As far as my first movie at this year’s fest, Us and Them, I really had no idea what to expect. I didn’t really even know if it was a horror movie! But, hey, coming to these festivals is all about taking chances on things because the movie is probably playing for some valid reason. Now having seen it, I can say Us and Them‘s reason for playing is because there wasn’t an actual Guy Ritchie film to program and this was an alternate.

Doesn’t this look badass?!

You know who need to be taken down a notch? Corporate fat cats! They’ve been profiting off the poor and living too well, so Danny (Jack Roth) aims to do something about it. A chance encounter with a discovered cell phone leads him to form a plan to infiltrate the home of a rich person, whose profession isn’t really important, to remind them how well they’re living. With the help of a couple of buddies, Danny teaches this rich family a lesson by tying them up, damaging their belongings, and videotaping the entire thing for posterity. Danny hits a few bumps in the road that lead to surprising consequences, but the film reminds you that there’s one thing for sure: rich people are bad!

Roth really attacked the role of Danny, but left me wishing his character had more to do or say or think or feel or really anything at all.

Writer/director Joe Martin is clearly fed up with entitled businessmen and politicians who are exploiting the less-fortunate members of society who work harder and longer to make a fraction of their paychecks. The desire to make a movie that both expresses your frustrations about the situation while also being entertaining and not too self-righteous is a tough challenge that he most accomplishes. Us and Them never gets too political, but sadly, I feel like it was because it didn’t have much to say more than “rich people are bad.” Last year’s The Big Short is a much more effective examination of how the rich can exploit the poor in how it was both informational and entertaining, but Us and Them merely uses the political themes as a basis for the plot as opposed to offering anything meatier.

If you were looking for a solid home invasion thriller, then Us and Them is NOT the way to go!

Political agendas and messages aside, the movie is…fine. Much of the dialogue and many of the sequences are reminiscent of Reservoir Dogs-era Tarantino or Snatch-era Ritchie, but never quite as clever as either of those filmmakers. That’s not to say that the film is a total wash, as there are definitely some incredibly entertaining bits, with a slow motion sequence towards the end that had the entire exploding with laughter, but it felt like Martin couldn’t quite find his footing. Had he focused on the more intense and dramatic elements about conflicting societies or given the film more jokes, it would’ve been more effective. Regardless of its shortcomings, Martin is clearly a filmmaker to watch who might have worn his influences on his sleeve in this film, but I look forward to seeing his evolution as a stylish filmmaker with a lot to say.

Wolfman Moon Scale

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