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4.1 out of 5 stars27
4.1 out of 5 stars
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As the film starts, a group of men start a job at a building site. The management seem hell-bent on establishing and stamping their authority, but despite this (and in part because of this) a strong camaraderie is formed between the new labourers.

In a weirdly ironic twist the labourers find themselves living hand-to-mouth whilst working on luxury property designed for the affluent few. As a group they are exploited but within the group they form solid bonds and go out of their way to help each other. The way they quickly seem to become a family is quite touching, and they look out for one and other. It's not very often that a film deals with men's relationship with each other (other than the Hollywood 'bromance' films which are en-vogue at the moment, and those hardly reflect actual life), but Ken Loache has captured a chemistry which rarely appears in film.

Ricky Tomlinson seems at home when giving passionate speeches about how there should be no need for so many people to be homeless and jobless in 1990, there's no reason for so many people to go without. His diatribe seems so personal, and it's no surprise given that it reflects the socialist beliefs of both Ken Loach and Tomlinson himself who has a history of trade union politics in the building trade. It's Loach's magical and methodical way of matching the casting to actors who really don't need to act that give his films that incredibly realistic edge. Within the first ten minutes we get a very real dose of recession politics from the folk who feel it the most - folk who chase the few jobs available, ending up squatting in tawdry digs whilst being exploited by the people they work for because they know that there are plenty more desperate to fill the role.

There's a loose plot to the film which follows Steve (Robert Carlyle) and his romance with aspiring singer Susan (only she's not very good!). Carlyle's natural acting style lends itself perfectly to Loach's directing style and he obviously impressed as he appeared in Carla's Song a few years later. It's Ricky Tomlinson who steals the show though with his patriarchal and eminently likeable portrayal of the idealistic building site philosopher.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 January 2012
Ken Loach's 1991 film Riff-Raff is one of his funniest, and can almost be categorised as an out and out comedy. However, as with all other Loach films, classics such as Kes and My Name Is Joe and lesser works such as Looking For Eric and Ae Fond Kiss, Riff-Raff mixes some hilarious moments with an underlying current of serious social commentary.

Riff-Raff stars Robert Carlyle as Stevie, a Glaswegian with ambitious (but perhaps rather fanciful) plans to set up his own business selling boxer shorts, but in the meantime has travelled to London to earn some cash working on a building site. Here he finds a suitable construction site populated with a cosmopolitan mix of Scousers, Cockneys, Bristolians and Africans. The film's main narrative concerns Stevie's chance encounter and subsequent relationship with neurotic, aspiring singer Susan (admirably played by Emer McCourt), a relationship which finally falters when Stevie discovers Susan's dark secret.

Alongside this storyline, however, Loach provides the majority of the screen time for the social, political and personal debates of the building site workers. The main focus, and indeed instigator of the said debates, is left-wing thinker and Scouser Larry (played by the inestimable Ricky Tomlinson in terrific form). Larry is, in effect, a modern day Frank Owen (the agitating socialist at the centre of Robert Tressell's 1914 classic The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists), as he bores his colleagues senseless with his constant diatribes on worker exploitation by the ruling capitalist class. Larry's adversaries come in the form of Cockney ganger Mick (superbly played by Garrie Lammin) and supervisor Gus, who is, in a film-stealing performance, played by the much underused (and now sadly deceased) Willie Ross. Ross first came to my attention with his bravura performance as the ferocious, drunken father of Daniel Craig's Geordie Peacock in the acclaimed TV series Our Friends In The North. Incidentally, Riff-Raff contains, for me, Robert Carlyle's second most impressive big screen performance, only behind his superbly psychotic Begbie in Trainspotting.

In typical fashion, Loach includes a number of hilarious set-piece sequences, including that where Larry is caught in flagranto by a party of Muslim women, as he takes a surreptitious bath in the building site show home, and that where, on returning to Glasgow for his mother's funeral, Stevie is one of the mourners who ends up covered in ashes as the scattering service does not go quite to plan.

The film also features an interesting jazz-influenced soundtrack written by erstwhile Police drummer Stewart Copeland.

In summary then, Riff-Raff does not represent Loach at his absolute peak, but is a worthy (and very funny) effort nevertheless.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 18 September 2012
You can literally purchase any film directed by Ken Loach and you just know that you are going to get quality. Whilst 'Riff-Raff' (1991) may not be my personal favourite, it is certainly no exception.

It stars the talented Robert Carlyle (I regard this as one of his finest performances) who plays Stevie, a Glaswegian construction worker who has spent time in prison, and his girlfriend Susan (Emer McCourt), an unemployed pop singer. Also worthy of note is Ricky Tomlinson who is on top form here as Liverpudlian Larry, a work friend of Stevie and a staunch Labour supporter. Like a lot of Ken's films, the characters in this movie are easy to relate to, they are just simple, good, hard-working people who have their dreams and strong principles.

'Riff Raff' brilliantly and realistically portrays the living conditions of the British poor class. Like all Loach films, it's gritty, it has a meaning, but there is also a real sense of warmth, inspiration and a good deal of humour as well.

I watched this on a Sunday afternoon and really enjoyed it. Recommended for any fan of British film.
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on 14 February 2014
Loach has once again made a film about working class Britain, and filled it full of humour and heart.

But as always with his films, soon after the humour comes a lot of pain, and even at the beginning when the two lovers meet, it's under depressing circumstances, and the relationship between them never really gets any better.

Loach always manages to get great performances from all of his cast, and special mentions to Carlyle and Tomlinson, for putting in some very respectable performances. But the issue here is the class struggle, hence the title and the killing of the rats. To other classes, is this demographic of people classed as rats?

The film asks a lot of questions, and thanks to the bleakness of the film and the settings, a lot of i is justified. But then Loach shows us that we are all the same when it comes to the bottom line, and no amount of scaffolding can change that.

It packs a punch, but it's so full of rich humour and characters, the bleakness is almost lifted.
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on 7 July 2010
This is a great little film. The acting is first rate, the characters feel totally real and the humour is equally natural. There are political points being made in the film but again they arise out of the very real life situation the characters are in and the director doesn't hit you over the head with them. Shame the DVD has no extras but for the price definitely worth buying.
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on 31 May 2000
The story of people with hopes, dreams and principles they're willing to stand for.
The story of building site workers in a time when...well, just listen to Ricky Tomlinson's monologues on the state of the country!
The story of "boy meets girl, girl moves in with boy, boy and girl try to get along"'ll never see Mr.Carlyle play a role which demands such tenderness and that dreaded "feminine side".
Fantastically rythmic yet not overbearing score by Stewart (Police) Copeland, some great psuedo-realistic - and, probably knowing Ken Loach - REAL dialogue and a very solid cast of real "characters" make this a must-see early Ken Loach film.
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on 3 May 2013
I thoroughly enjoyed this film

It was a good down to earth film and captured the feel of what it was like in those times. I like this because it had funny moments and also realistic. A young man just out of jail going to London hoping to find a better life for himself finds out that it isn't all its cracked up to be in London, he goes through ups and downs and gets by. I don't want to give too much away for people who not seen it yet. If your a fan of Ken Loaches film's then you will like this one.
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on 6 September 2013
This is a portrayal of life in the slow lane but full of wit and intelligent observation of the condition of life for so many in UK. The acting and directing are excellent. I would recommend this for anyone who wants a thoughtful portrayal of ordinary life for the urban underclass. Should be required viewing for anyone working in the building trade.
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on 11 September 2012
this film is one of ken loachs finest works,it captures brilliantly the harshness of working class life and the black comedy you get when the pressure is on, the acting is fantastic.
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on 21 June 2012
An old film but probably one of Robert Carlyle's best. It is so realistic in every way. The Crematorium scene could only be recreated by someone of Roach's talent.
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