ATTACK THE BLOCK
RUNNING TIME:86 mins
DISTRIBUTED BY:Optimum Releasing
REVIEWED BY:Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
In the London area of Oval, Sam a young woman is walking home when she is mugged by a group of hoodies, led by Moses, who take her change, purse and even a ring. Just then, something resembling a meteorite lands in the park nearby. As Sam gets away and tells the police of her mugging, the youths investigate and are attacked by a ferocious wolf-like creature, whom they dispatch. They hide the carcass in the house of their drug dealer friend Ron, but more creatures appear, and the gang have to evade both the monsters and the police……….
Ask my opinions of hoodies and I’ll normally reply that I detest the little shits and that they are a blight on many of this country’s cities. Therefore, a movie in which hoodies battle aliens seemed like an interesting prospect, one in which I would support the aliens for once! Surprisingly, this ended up not being the case at all with Attack The Block, the first feature from Joe Cornish, one which I hope will lead to many successive films from him. This is a hugely enjoyable romp, one which, despite the setting, is almost a throwback to that golden age of teen horror/science fiction/adventure movies the 80, where films like Gremlins, The Monster Squad and The Goonies had kids who weren’t always great role models but were how kids actually are, had a bit of violence, a bit of horror, but maintained a sense of fun throughout and overall were a real good time at the movies for just about anyone, not just their target audience! Compare that to the crap teenagers are fed today! Now even though the main protagonists of Attack The Block aren’t exactly ‘nice’ kids, I still reckon many youths viewing the movie will identify with them in some way. Cornish, who wrote as well as directed this movie, has to balance two things that many would think wouldn’t work well together- a realistic depiction of youths in a typical London ‘block’ and scary furry alien monsters, and you know what, he succeeds very well.
The opening sequence is very brave, we see the people who later on have to be the film’s ‘heroes’ in their worst light. As they circle around Sam on their bikes, dismount and form a line in front of her, looking really menacing in their outfits, before they cruelly mug her, even to the point of taking a ring which obviously means a great deal to her, the tone is very menacing. I must admit, as we then follow the hoodies, rather than Sam, I wasn’t sure as if I was going to enjoy the movie, especially as I couldn’t understand much of what the kids were saying, and also because Nick Frost’s presence in a movie normally indicates these days that it’s going to be poor [i,e.Paul, The Boat That Rocked]. However, we soon get into the encounter with the monster in the park and after that the film is a terrific thrill ride, moving at a furious pace. Cornish delivers some really exciting sequences with his tiny budget, such a couple of the characters are trapped in a police van, and even some actual horror-they are two moments when characters see the creatures outside a window which are genuinely frightening, plus a few other bits here and there. He also adroitly mixes in humour, sometimes using it at the same time as the more intense stuff, such as one kid who spends most of the film trapped in a skip, or when the gang, taking flight in the police van, crash into a car……….one which happens to be driven by their gangster ‘boss’. The film never goes too far in one direction though, it’s all balanced perfectly, in a way that makes me wonder why more films these days can’t do this! Sentimentality is mostly avoided but the final scene is quite rousing, and, you know what, it works superbly.
I mentioned earlier about the language and need to mention it again because it is a big part of the film and seems to have put a lot of people off. The kids talk in what I can best describe as a mixture of Cockney and Jamaican, and there are so many odd phrases and terms that at times it is hard to understand what they mean. However, it really helps things seems authentic-after all, this is how hoodies talk, and I applaud the bravery in doing this, at the expense of some coherence. The actual portrayal of the kids is really well balanced-it doesn’t shy away from their crime and drug filled lives, but still shows them as real people who have good and bad points. There’s a brilliant sequence where we see all the main kids, in turn, briefly going to their respective homes to get weapons and then going out again. Each one has a lone parent [or possibly grandparent in one case] whose respective attitudes speak volumes in scenes that only last a few seconds. There’s plenty of social comment elsewhere, some of it of the humorous kind, such as when the kids can’t understand why Sam wants to move away, asking what’s wrong with the area. I also loved the dialogue in another scene where Sam says “I don’t want to get mixed up in this f******g gang warfare bullshit” and Moses replies “This isn’t about gangs………..or drugs, or rap music, or video games”. None of this is overdone, and a lot of the time it’s quite subtle, but it shows that the script has been written with intelligence, even in a film that many other writers would have said didn’t require it.
We don’t actually find much out about the aliens, such as to why they attack Oval in the first place, and the effects are mostly limited to some very briefly seen flashes of light hitting the ground and the hairy aliens, but that’s really all we need. The latter, which are seen often though rarely in much detail actually seemed quite effective to me, I loved the way their teeth seemed to light up at times, though I couldn’t understand why the body of the alien they kill looks really different to all the others, and there were times I was reminded of Critters, but I suppose that’s not a bad thing. They seemed to me to be people in suits [hurrah!!] with a bit of added CGI. There isn’t a huge amount of gore, and the bloodiest sequence, a multiple kill in a lift, happens so that you only see the aftermath, but there are brief gruesome bits. Things in the movie that I do think are flaws are the presence of Frost’s character, who really serves no function at all, and the way that, with the exception of Moses, the white characters seem a little prioritised-I’m certainly no worshipper at the altar of political correctness, in fact I really dislike it, but perhaps in this particular movie the balance on this matter could have been better seeing as it’s set in an area where black people outnumber white people.
My favourite performance in the movie is Luke Treadaway as Brewis, a student who spends the whole film stoned, I felt like laughing every time I saw him. Outside of Frost, Treadaway and Jodie Whitaker as Sam, the cast are all virtually much unknowns but fare really well. John Boyega is especially strong as Moses, he really conveys his character’s constant bitterness and anger, and also provides the film’s loveliest moment when he finally smiles. Steven Price’s electronic score often sounds like the backing for rap tracks and is usually quite effective. Attack The Block totally exceeded my expectations, it’s a terrific piece of entertainment that never really gives you time to breath but has been made with skill and care, and as for the hoodies? Well, I actually got to rather liking the little sods, and, during one scene where they head out on their bikes to confront their strange enemy, I actually felt like rooting for them – out loud.
The DVD and Blu-Ray release comes packed with ultra cool special features. ‘Behind the Block’ features behind the scenes filming of Attack the Block with all the cast, including Mayhem and Probs, as well as an insight from director Joe Cornish on the way he works and creates his vision. Another of the special features you must watch is ‘Creature Feature’ where we meet the genius behind the alien, Terry Notary. Unlike most alien films nowadays, Attack the Block’s alien was filmed with Terry running on all fours in a black furry suit with glowing fangs, chasing the hoodies around their South London home. CGI was added in post-production to give the flat black look. Other special features include commentaries, trailers, Meet The Gang, Joe’s Massage, It’s A Rap and Unfilmed Action. As far as special features go, this is a pretty excellent addition to an enjoyable film.
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