Friday, June 24, 2011

Attack the Block: A Review

"That's an alien, bruv, believe it."

Pest in Attack the Block (2011)

I'm absolutely convinced that London is the seediest, most dangerous place on the face of the planet. It seems to me that it's populated almost exclusively by feral chavs, neo-Nazis, migrant jihadists, and gangbangers drowning in inner city desperation and pulling everyone else down with them. That is, if British films like Harry Brown, Fish Tank, Four Lions, and KiDULTHOOD are any indication. Now, we have Attack the Block which opened up with a quintet of teenage chavs on BMX bikes mugging a defenceless nurse.

I say we should just nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

Attack the Block theatrical poster
The film looks nothing like this.

Attack the Block is the directorial debut of Joe Cornish, friend of the terrific trio of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost (who has a very minor supporting role here) and it's B-grade alien invasion chavsploitation flick. If that premise interests you even the least bit, then you might want to check it out.

This film only has a budget of £8 million, and having no conception of how expensive making a film of this calibre can be, I think it looks frightfully cheap and schlocky. It also has absolutely star power to speak of (with Nick Frost being the only talent with any name at all) so it must have saved lots on the actors' paychecks as well. So, I had to wonder: Why do the alien beings featured in Attack of the Block look like animated two-dimensional silhouettes of gorillas that a sleep-deprived amateur animator can whip up it in a single day on his laptop? Seriously, the creatures were essentially walking furry black holes which no light can escape from but unlike blackholes, they have no weight to speak of and therefore feel like they don't even exist within the scenes.

I'm guessing the creature design was a cheat - y'know, to get away from animating convincing-looking fur and sinews. Since the events of the film took place at night rendering it impossible for anyone to see the aliens at all, they added blue glowing fangs as a workaround.

I'm also not a fan of the shaky cam used to shoot many of the action sequences in this movie, and I'm speaking as someone who didn't even notice that Paul Greengrass was using that same technique in the Bourne films until someone told me it made them queasy. The camera frequently move far, far too close in proximity to the actors and the epileptic cuts all combined to make a lot of scenes incomprehensible.

Jerome (Leonn Jones), Biggz (Simon Howard), Moses (John Boyega), Pest (Alex Esmail) and Dennis (Franz Drameh)
From left to right: Jerome (Leonn Jones), Biggz (Simon Howard),
Moses (John Boyega), Pest (Alex Esmail) and Dennis (Franz Drameh)

It says a lot for the rest of the film that I ended up enjoying it ultimately. The dialogues were amusing triffles one would expect from the mouth of stupid teenage hoodlums but made all the more amusing with by their British street slang. And since I don't really like any of them, I could happily enjoy seeing them getting eviscerated graphically one by one by the alien creatures.

They tried to create a bit of a redemptive character arc for Moses, the head of his ragtag bunch of chavs, but it ultimately didn't really work for me. Since I've been beaten up once by a pair of youths robbing me on the streets at night before (one of them kicked me in the teeth), I find it quite impossible to summon any sympathy for juvenile delinquents anymore.

I'm going to divulge a bit of spoilers in the next paragraph. Just skip to the last paragraph if you haven't seen the movie.

Ron (Nick Frost) and Brewis (Luke Treadaway)
Ron (Nick Frost) and Brewis (Luke Treadaway).

An astrobiologist watching Attack the Block will probably cry angry tears because the alien invasion makes no damn scientific or logical sense at all. How did the complex organisms survive entry into our atmosphere sans spacecraft without being completely fried to tarry balls of crisps by air compression? And if they can survive that, how can they be killed by something as relatively inconsequential as a gas explosion? I have a really high threshold for the suspension of disbelief, but the least I ask of any work of speculative fiction is that they remain internally consistent. I was actually expecting Moses' plan to fail hilariously and for the creatures to tear him into tiny bite-sized pieces of chav meat, and was quite disappointed when it didn't happen.

Despite my negativity, I did have a good time with Attack the Block. What I don't get is the 89% rating it garnered on Rotten Tomatoes. It's really not that good, folks, but if you're a Mat Rempit, I can see how you would dig the hell out of this film. The ones in my cinema certainly did.

Don't like chavs,
k0k s3n w4i

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