Film Review: Beats

STUDIO: Music Box Films | DIRECTOR: Brian Welsh | CAST: Cristian Ortega, Lorn Macdonald, Ross Mann, Gemma McElhinney, Amy Manson, Rachel Jackson, Laura Fraser, Brian Ferguson
RELEASE DATE: June 26, 2020
SPECS: NR | 101 min. | Crime drama-comedy | 2.35:1 widescreen

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie 

You can easily categorize Beats as a typical teenage, rite of passage film, but that only skims the surface of this fun, chaotic, humorous, energetic story about a charming friendship set amongst civil disobedience of 1990’s Scotland.

Best friends and polar opposites Johnno (Cristian Ortega, Retribution) and Spanner (Lorn MacDonald, Shetland) realize they are destined for different futures and decide to sneak out to an illegal party for one last crazy night together as the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994, which banned unlicensed raves across the UK, goes into effect.

Brian Welsh (Glasgow Girls), who directed and co-wrote the film based on the 2012 play by Kieran Hurley, weaves the story of boys’ personal struggles with a socio-political discussion about Scotland in 1994, what the Criminal Justice Act meant, revealing how the ideas it represented were both hilarious and profoundly moving. He skillfully manages to get the beast out of MacDonald and Ortega’s portrayals of Spanner and Johnno—their fully fleshed out characters and the believability of their heartfelt friendship carries you through the film, keeping you utterly engaged.

Shot in rich black and white, Welsh wants the film to “feel like a memory” and it works without distraction. His camera placements during the climatic rave scene fully immerses the viewer in the hectic, adrenaline filled moments. Though not a fan of the Techno scene, as I sat on my couch, I could feel the intoxicating pull of the music along with the vibrant energy of the crowd as they danced with pure abandon. I didn’t stand up and join along, but I did find myself bopping along with the beat.

The film has a smartly put together soundtrack mixed by Keith McIvor, aka JD Twitch of Glasgow’s long-running DJ duo Optimo He and Welsh compile 30 soundtrack songs, including popular hits alongside cult techno tracks by the likes of Plastikman, Joey Beltram, N-Joi and Model 500, not to mention Beltram’s “Energy Flash,” Outlander’s “Vamp” and numbers by Human Resource, Phantasia and Inner Light.

Beats offers a delightful and immersive declaration of music’s power to connect us all—turn up the volume and press play on this one.

Currently playing in select theaters and virtual engagements including NYC at Angelika Theater, Los Angeles at Laemmle Theater, Chicago at Music Box Theater, San Francisco at Roxie Theater; and more markets added. Tickets are available online for each participating theater.

Watch Beats
Tickets are available online for each participating theater.

About Janine

Janine is a dedicated fan of the 1940 film Kitty Foyle, directed by Sam Wood, written by Dalton Trumbo and starring Ginger Rogers, who won an Oscar for her portrayal. And seeing that film is all it took to make her a lifelong movie lover. Janine is excited to add her insights to the great team at