William Jewells brings audiences a strong thriller in his feature debut Concrete Plans. An ensemble piece that expertly ramps up the tension to a brutal final act.
A rich heir cheaply hires a small crew to renovate his manor and surrounding area. Living lavishly in his home, he forces the construction crew to live in a cramped caravan. However, his financial situation is not as secure as the crew believe. Constantly delaying payment until enough is enough and the team demand their money in a confrontation with dire consequences.
We have a wide range of characters here to deal with, on the construction crew side we have the foreman Bob (Steve Speirs). Who is trying to keep his struggling construction company afloat. He has risked it all on a cash in hand job with a nearly impossible deadline with a penalty of forfeiture of fees. Bob’s ungrateful nephew Steve (Charley Palmer Rothwell) who is work shy and not worth the trouble. Dave (William Thomas) from the Valleys who has seen it all on a worksite and always has an opinion. Jim (Chris Reilly) who is hiding something from the group and Bob about his past, keeping a menacing presence throughout. Then finally, we have poor Viktor (Goran Bogdan) from the Ukraine who is here to support his young daughter who he misses with each passing day.
These five men are trapped in a caravan together for months with no ability to move either into the house or into the barn. Both of which would bring distance, heat and an indoor toilet to lift their morale. Being trapped side by side with the people you are working with every day brings an understandable tension with the volatile Steve and Jim creating a powder keg of emotions just waiting to explode.
All the while Simon’s girlfriend Amy (Amber Rose Revah) seemingly carries on unknowing to all of his antics. Explode they do when Jim and Bob overhear Simon (Kevin Guthrie) reveal over the phone. His frustration at Bob and crew keeping to their insanely tight deadlines and his plan to run off to the Caymans to free up the money he desperately needs.
Leaving the construction team with not a penny to their names for their work. Jim, already caught out with a medley of lies cracks and attempts to force with violence the money from Simon. But while these five desperate men may have no money, ironically, the man in the sharp suits and manor house has just as much in liquid assets. He needs to run to withdraw the money before the tax fraud team take it all, including the house.
Not willing to take no for an answer drastic and brutal decisions are made. These scenes completely change the mood of the film. Director William Jewell has wonderfully ramped up the tension not only between the five workers but also between them and Simon. The overly tense poker game shows how careless Simon is with money, with Jim noticing how edgy Simon is regarding payments. Jim is a character that has already taken similar measures recently as told over the radio. If there is to be a violent act, it is most certainly coming from him first.
As the tension builds, Jewell layers even more moments into Concrete Plans. Steve feels a connection to Jim and fast ignores his uncle to be Jim’s second-hand man throughout, revelling in the violence that ensues. The other three are lost in the actions as they realise how the situation affects them all. Jewell also never allows the audience to get comfortable in that last half hour. With it being quite reminiscent of the tension in Eden Lake. We don’t know who is going to survive, but we sure as hell know it is going to be ugly.
Jewell and cinematographer Rachel Clark give us little room to breathe when around the group, with the camera usually tight on them. We feel their claustrophobic living and work arrangements. It is only when we get some beautiful imagery of the countryside do we take it in. Much like Victor does by the lake early on. The combustible nature of the men needs these brief moments and when we do not get them when that keg erupts it is truly felt.
The ensemble is terrific together with each bringing their own to the roles. The standouts are Speirs, who brings a true sense of desperation and loss to Bob. He portrays him as someone who just thought it would be a hard. But worthwhile job and almost from the start it goes wrong for him. Reilly knows exactly what actions and movements to make to bring Jim’s ominous nature rise to the fore. We know from the start that if something goes wrong, it will be from him. Bogdan is, of course, the heart of the film, far from home and only here to make extra money for his child. He is dragged along throughout everything against his will and acts when enough is finally enough.
Concrete Plans is a thoughtful albeit brutal thriller. It looks far more into the socioeconomic situation in the UK far more than you would expect. This is a film that shows the avenues that the rich have to them if they seek it to get out of trouble. To keep their money and their lifestyle. To live in their large open house and wear the best clothing and sit in the best furniture. Whereas, our construction crew have to live in a caravan, use a portacabin just to get by. Neither has actual money, but because of how one person was raised, deems how comfortable his lack of money can truly be.
We are left with a great ensemble piece that utilises all of its cast to perfection. William Jewell has worked wonders with a simple premise and a tight script to bring audiences a solid and effective thriller in Concrete Plans.
Signature Entertainment Presents Concrete Plans on Digital HD from 23rd November.
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