Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Attack the Block


Writer/Dir: Joe Cornish - feature film directorial debut
Cast: John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameh, Leeon Jones, Simon Howard, Luke Treadaway, Nick Frost, Jumayn Hunter
UK, 2011

Seen: July 30, 2011 at AMC

Reason to see: British SciFi comedy in the hood? Um, that's going to be a yes from me.

Attack the Block is a film where I almost want to talk more about the experience around it more than the actual film itself. It's one that's been winning over genre audiences and audience awards from SXSW to LA Film Fest and also Best European or American Feature at Fantasia's announced earlier this week. It also had tons of advanced screenings before it's releases, and the buzz on Twitter & Facebook was so overwhelming that I thought it had already in theatrical release, but no. Just advance screenings. By the time it opened in Toronto on July 29, 2011 I felt like I already missed the boat on it. It felt like everyone but me had already seen it. Plus, it was released on a weekend that had two other science fiction releases (Another Earth and Cowboys & Aliens), so for a film that there is absolutely no reason why I shouldn't be interested, it actually had the deck starting to stack against it. But, I like to give things a chance and I didn't want to miss out on the fun even if I was a few weeks late to the party so off I went to the theatre.

The film itself centres on a group of thugs who live on a council estate (Canada read: Government Housing, US read: The Projects) led by Moses (John Boyega) who run around the area with pride and serve up a combination of fear, admiration and respect depending on who they run into. Or what they run into. Remember, this is a science fiction film and that means were likely going to have a what?!? to deal with at some point. The film dives in and quickly gets frantic and frenetic, all the while keeping the humour high (literally - lots of drug references) and pushes the gore card in your face as well.

One of the biggest strengths of the films is that of the characters, and you'll love 'em or hate 'em or maybe even a bit of both. If you don't connect to them, then all your get is the gore and the laughs which to be honest that actually is enough to enjoy the film. But the characters bring it home stronger than just a thrill ride from the stoic and firm standing Moses, to the mouthy Pest who I kept notating as "Woolie Hat Guy" played by Alex Esmail who was very entertaining. I also really got a kick out of the over the top performance from Jumayn Hunter as Hi-Hatz, and I'm sure many people will love Nick Frost as Ron & Luke Treadaway as Brewis who fill out some of the stoner-ness in the story. Those are the ruffians on the block who keep it realz, but keeping it a different kind of real is the character of Sam (Jodie Whittaker of Perrier's Bounty), a nurse who has recently come to live on the block.

It's hard not to think of other films while watching Attack the Block. The culture clash and flipping stereotypes reminded me of films like I'm Gonna Get You Sucker! and the extreme-ing of a genre formula (science fiction here) with comedy infusion holds a strong shout out to films like Hot Fuzz (buddy cop films) and Shaun of the Dead (zombie films). Does that mean Attack the Block can't hold it's own? Or deserve credit where it's due? Nope. It holds it's own and deserves the credit it deserves. You can feel the influences, and sure it didn't invent the idea but it's not strictly formula and it's enjoyable in it's own right and that is what ended up truly winning me over. It didn't rely on references or require a geek credit card to get it. It was it's own film. The only barrier for the film other than gore would be the crazy thick accents & slang that for the uninitiated to UK films/TV might find a challenge, but I think you often get the essense of something without needing to completely understand every word.

I went in skeptical but ended up being gradually won over but the wealth of interesting characters, great story, a lot of ingenuity and the fact that it actually had humour and heart. Attack the Block packs the punches with the lunches as the hoods take on challenges from far beyond their estate.

Warnings: Gore

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it, but it had to win me over
I'll buy it
I'd recommend it to film fans and especially horror/comedy fans

Also see: All 2011 Films Reviewed and All Film Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

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