Spanner, Lorn Macdonald (“Shetland (TV)”, “World’s End (TV)”), is from a rough family, a reputation largely down to Fido, Neil Leiper (“Still Game (TV)”, “Wasted Time”), his older brother.
Johnno, Cristian Ortega (“One Of Us (TV)”), has different issues as his step-father, a police officer no less, Robert, Brian Ferguson (“Outlander (TV)”, “Line Of Duty (TV)”), wants to move his new family to a new home, a new estate, away from the “riff-raff”.
What they really want to do, or should that be what Spanner wants to do, it’s less clear if Johnno is going along with his friend or if he actually wants to, what they really want to do is attend a rave, ideally an illegal one.
This was easier than you think in 1994 when Beats has been set, as this was shortly after the then Labour Government brought in the Criminal Justice Act, essentially banning illegal raves.
Johnno and Spanner hook-up with some ladies, one of whom being Spanner’s cousin, and learn about an illegal rave going down from a pirate radio station they’ve been listening to hosted by D-Man, Ross Mann (“Outlander (TV)”, “Reverb (Short)”).
Despite Johnno’s family telling him he can’t have anything to do with Spanner and the ilk, he gets talked into going to this monster rave, one last hurrah.
Johnno is a quiet, retiring type, Spanner anything but. The two fall-out though when Spanner overhears Johnno’s mum saying Spanner and his family are scum. This doesn’t last long though.
As the pair head for the rave of all raves, they end up being hunted down by Fido, whom Spanner has stolen money from, one of the girls controlling boyfriend and the police who are wanting to shut the rave down.
Beats is based on the play by Kieran Hurley who co-wrote the script with director Brian Welsh (“The Rack Pack”, “Black Mirror (TV)”). Because two films were released in 2019 with the title Beats, this is often called Brian Welsh’s Beats.
Welsh shoots the whole film in black and white. It gives the whole film a gritty, dirty feel (this isn’t the film quality, which is excellent) and must have helped with the nineties vibe somewhat, though I’d have liked to have seen the lurid colours that were around during the rave scene back then. Perhaps Welsh did it so the colours didn’t detract. The film is produced by Steven Soderbergh (“Logan Lucky”, “The Laundromat”).
Both Macdonald and Ortega are brilliant in their respective roles. Macdonald the one trying to escape his families name but finding it easier said than done, Ortega permanently looks like the proverbial rabbit in the headlights, but it works.
Ross Mann is excellent as the DJ come intellectual who espouses quotes from all sorts of places, talking constantly about the establishment, the man, and not being brainwashed.
As a person who was DJ’ing back in the 90’s the music is nostalgic as hell! It’s awesome, featuring classics such as The Prodigy – Wind It Up, Joey Beltram – Energy Flash, Orbital – Belfast, N Joi – Anthem, Inner City – Big Fun, A Homeboy, A Hippie & A Funki Dredd – Total Confusion and so much more.
The scenes inside the rave are perhaps some of the best. The graphics (which go to colour), the faces everyone is pulling, the sheer joy they are experiencing, the camaraderie, the coming of age. It’s brilliant as anyone who has ever been remotely involved in the scenes can testify.
The whole film is funny, poignant and a blast and the final song The Joubert Singers – Stand On The Word (Larry Levan’s mix) is perfect. In my humble opinion it doesn’t beat Human Traffic as the best ever film about the scene, but it is a close second and beats (no pun intended) Human Traffic on drama.
The DVD has great quality but there are zero extras which is a huge disappointment if I’m honest. It should at least include the soundtrack!