ATTACK THE BLOCK (2011)
Starring John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Luke Treadaway, Leeon Jones, Nick Frost, Simon Howard, Alex Esmail, Jumayn Hunter, Franz Drameh, Sammy Williams, Michael Ajao, Paige Meade, Maggie McCarthy, Danielle Vitalis, Natasha Jonas, Saffron Lashley and Gina Antwi.
Screenplay by Joe Cornish.
Directed by Joe Cornish.
Distributed by Screen Gems. 88 minutes. Rated R.
The British comedies Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz became cult favorites not because they were parodies of genre films (Shaun was zombie movies and Fuzz was action flicks), but because they were serious genre films that were made funny.
In fact, Shaun and Hot Fuzz co-star Nick Frost told me a few years ago, “We don’t like to use the word spoof or parody. We love [action] films. We love horror films, too. We like to think of them as love letters to the genre.”
Attack the Block is being advertised as being from the makers of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz and that is true – though it is from the B-team behind those films. Co-writer/star Simon Pegg is not involved at all, co-writer/director Edgar Wright just has a production credit here and co-star Frost takes on a supporting role. Writer/director Joe Cornish was an actor in the other two films – although only in Hot Fuzz did he have a significant role. Cornish is an up-and-comer, though. He also wrote the upcoming Spielberg production of The Adventures of Tin-Tin and a planned Marvel comic film of Ant-Man.
Yet, in many ways, Attack the Block does capture the anarchic genre humor of the previous movies despite a different behind-the-scenes look. It is enjoyably quirky and British just like the other films, a fun mixture of sci-fi, action and comedy. It even stumbles in some of the same ways – the violence is a little too intense for a comedy and some of the funny parts are played a bit too seriously.
Attack the Block has a rather simple premise. Killer aliens attack a run-down pension house in London and a gang of hoods have to fight off the creatures and save their block.
It’s a funny idea and mostly well done. It’s cheesy somewhat; particularly the aliens, which look like huge fluffy black dogs with no eyes and glow-in-the-dark phosphorescent teeth. Still they are fast and they are hungry and they are looking to take our heroes (and everyone else) down.
The problem is, though, I have to admit I never got over my first impression of these gang members. They are first introduced with five of them robbing a single woman for her cell phone. Then they decide they are going to kill an incapacitated creature with noparticular provocation other than the fact it landed near them. Then they carry the carcass around and try to sell it to a drug dealer.
No matter what these guys do afterwards, no matter how brave it may have been, no matter the fact that they even eventually save and befriend their mugging victim, I couldn’t get over my initial sense that they were just a bunch of thugs. In fact, it turns out eventually that their building is specifically being targeted specifically because of these kids’ tough-guy acts.
I was at a screening filled with both film critics and normal people and through the audience reactions to the film, I get the feeling that I was in the minority in this reservation. However, while it didn’t totally ruin the film for me, it made it kind of hard to root for the supposed “good guys.”
Yet, despite this fact, I do have to say that Attack the Block is quite good as an audience-pleaser. It does work better as a comedy than as a horror film, but the movie works overall surprisingly well.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: July 27, 2011.