Since the Sixties, British director Ken Loach has been making films (Kes, Family Life) about the diminished options of the working class. His low-key style and avoidance of stars have left him a well-kept movie secret. Riff-raff won’t bring in the Terminator crowd, but it cements his reputation as a world-class filmmaker.
Riff-raff is set in a shabby London construction site where a motley crew of immigrants and hard cases uses humor as a weapon against backbreaking work and bosses. The accents are so thick that Bill Jesse’s script has been fitted with subtitles. You don’t have to catch every word to sense the rage beneath the comic riffs. Or to sniff the doom hanging over the relationship between Stevie (Robert Carlyle), an ex-con from Glasgow, and Susan (Emer McCourt), a junkie singer. Loach’s vision, cutting and compassionate, makes Riff-raff black comedy of a high order.