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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Beats (MA) - 101 minutes

Youthful anarchy is at the heart of a largely black and white film set just before the British government enacted legislation banning amplified repetitive beat music at unlicensed gatherings.

We are in a small working-class town in central Scotland in 1994.

The story centres on the friendship between two teenagers who approach life differently due to the circumstances in which they find themselves.

Spanner (Lorn Macdonald) looks to be heading down a slippery path. Living with his older brother, a massive bully, Spanner appears to be an irresponsible risk taker.

Johnny (Cristian Ortega) is a wide-eyed innocent whose single mother has taken up with a local policeman who is planning to move the family to a better neighbourhood.

The groundswell against the proposed new law is growing and pirate radio is pushing for an underground rave.

Spanner wants in and drags along a reluctant but interested Johnny, who – like Spanner – is a huge advocate of the intoxicating rhythm of the times.

With that Johnny flouts the wishes of his mother and her partner, who want him to cut ties with Spanner, who they regard as a loser and a bad influence.

Meanwhile, Spanner finds himself running from his brother on the strength of something he (Spanner) has done.

Beats, written by Kieran Hurley and Brian Welsh, and directed by the latter was inspired by a 2012 play from the former.

The pair worked long and hard to reconstruct and expand the theatrical version – a piece of single-voice narration – into a bona fide feature film and that hard work has paid off.

Beats the movie is quite some ride that feels authentic and raw.

It is about thumbing your nose at establishment and partying hard with drugs in tow.

It mashes a hard and nasty edge with an irreverent exuberance and is all the better for it.

The performances of both the primary and secondary players are strong and convincing. You dare not look away for a moment.

Especially worthy of praise are Macdonald as Spanner and Ortega as his timid partner in crime. The juxtaposition of their characters works a treat.

Mighty impressive too is the cinematography, which captures the grunge apparent throughout.

Director of photography Ben Kracun is particularly noteworthy for a number of evocative aerials.

The decision to shoot all but a few scenes without colour was so that the film felt like a memory, harking back to a time of idealism.

And a picture about beats wouldn’t be complete without a powerful musical score – 30 numbers brought together by Keith McIvor.

Beats is a creative representation of what was. Under the skilful direction of Welsh, it leaves an indelible impression.

Rated MA, it scores a 7½ out of 10.

It is available now on iTunes and Google Play.


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