Will Jewell’s newest film, Concrete Plans, may not be the first time horror has branched out into eat-the-rich narratives, but does it connect on the level of some more modern favorites of the genre?
Synopsis for Concrete Plans:
High in the remote Welsh mountains, five builders are brought together to renovate a sprawling old farmhouse. Housed in moldy portacabins, tensions soon simmer between the men and the self-entitled aristocratic homeowner, as well as amongst the ragtag group of men themselves. World-weary old timer Dave and kindly Foreman Bob try to keep the peace, but after his nephew, Steve, falls under the malign influence of bigot Jim, the pair taking a dislike to Viktor, a Ukrainian laborer. As the weather closes in and payments are late, tempers fray. Blood is spilled. As the blue-collar men are confronted with an increasingly dark spiral of moral choices, Jim makes an astonishing proposition.
It’s quite clear from the outset that the director wanted to tell a story about class disparity, which I find admirable. In our current worldwide pandemic situation, it’s easy to connect with the feeling of being a cog exploited by the upper class. Jewell throws in some subtle hints of a perpetual nature of this behavior with brief lingering on the family crest of the wealthy, classist, and abusive Simon (Kevin Guthrie: Dunkirk).
Unfortunately, not all the characterizations in Concrete Plans are as even handed as that. The most consistently antagonistic characters in the film, the bigoted Jim (Chris Reilly: Everest) and the foreman’s nephew, Steve (Charley Palmer Rothwell: Dunkirk), have little nuance. Jim gets a little bit of detail work towards the end, but Steve is a borderline feral psychopath from the outset, determined to cause as much trouble and pain as he can. Likely that was the intent to push the story along, but it comes off as caricature with a film that does fairly well at rounding its cast with little details.
That isn’t to say there aren’t some intriguing or clever elements in Concrete Plans. There are not one but two wonderfully tense scenes set around a poker game initiated by an antagonist. Jewell (and cinematographer Rachel Clark) nail power dynamics and dramatic pressure with camera work and performance the most in these sequences, even more so than the scenes in the back half that contain some grindhouse level violence. It’s extremely tempting to discuss these in this review, but I have decided not to so as to preserve dramatic tension for anyone willing to check this film out. I haven’t felt this tense in a poker scene since Casino Royale or Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
Another element of the film that I enjoyed was the score provided by Paul Hartnoll of Orbital fame. It brings a distinct electronic moodiness to the film that definitely helps convey the tone.
Sticking with Jewell’s own poker theme within the film, I’d have to say I admire his obvious desire to go all-in on this film. Like a good round of poker with your friends, some hands weren’t stellar and some stole the pot, but overall, I had a worthwhile time and would recommend Concrete Plans.