Attack The Block (2011, Joe Cornish)

Attack The Block (2011, Joe Cornish)Let me go right ahead and spoil this review for you: I do not understand the critical acclaim this movie has received. As a general rule of thumb, I am very wary of movies that are promoted as “by the same people who produced whatever hit movie” or even worse by prominently mentioning or showing a minor character who’s protrayed by an actor more famous than anyone else who’s in the movie. Attack The Block does all those things. I get that they’re marketing strategies to get the fickle movie-going audience to go and watch that particular movie but it just doesn’t sit right with me.

Which made me start watching this movie with a bit of an ambiguous feeling. On the one hand I had heard a lot of people raving about it – some of them even knowledgeable – yet on the other hand the people behind it seemingly didn’t feel secure enough about the finished product to just let it speak for itself and felt the need to resort to some dodgy marketing. Still, I was curious what all the fuss was about and let’s not kid each other here, I’ll basically watch anything anyway. Whether I like it, though, is a different matter altoghether.

The plot, then. In short, a bunch of delinquent kids from the same housing block (hence the titular “block”) mistake an alien for a monkey, kill it and cause a minor alien invasion in doing so.

That’s it, really, there’s not much else to it. Okay, there are a number of subplots, I guess. Well, I can think of two, anyway. One involves the block’s resident drug dealer trying to protect his turf and as is usually the case with drug dealers, he’s not too subtle about it. The other shows that the delinquent kids do care about certain things and are only who they are because of their troubled backgrounds. It’s especially these last parts of the movie that bothered me as they’re so blatantly obvious and corny (figuring the same old themes such as prejudice, self-sacrifice,…) to the point that they’re annoying. It reminded me of that 90’s show Moesha, really, it’s that bad. Maybe if this was a kid’s movie you could still stomach it – though even then I think it’s put on too thickly (I mean, Moesha!) – but it’s definitely not a kid’s movie because there’s too much gore, drug-use, swearing and other non-child friendly stuff in there for that. So who is this movie aimed at? There are some jokes in there but not enough to make it a comedy so they come across as rather awkward. It’s not truly a horror movie either as it never even gets truly scary for instance. It’s trying to cater to too many tastes, leaving everyone wanting in the process.

All this may seem a bit harsh and it kind of is because it’s not thát bad a movie, either, and okay, maybe it’s not quite as bad as Moesha. But it’s very frustrating nevertheless because there is a decent movie there somewhere, it’s just that it’s buried under a somewhat muddled script, an overmoralizing story and some slack directing. Director/writer Joe Cornish definitely bit off more than he could chew for his first feature film but he does show promise. He managed to get an okay cast together with the kid actors in particular putting down some nice performances. And yes, as the makers definitely wanted everyone to know, it’s got Nick Frost as well, though not in a part he’ll be particularly remembered for. It’s got some decent effects with a bit of gore and monsters which are kind of intriguing even. And the main invasion story, though a bit flimsy, has an interesting (albeit rather sudden) explanation for the reasons behind the invasion. Nothing new, mind, but not something that’s been done to death, either, so kudos for that.

In conclusion, too bad, Joe, a missed opportunity. If you make a second feature, though, – and given the fact that almost everybody else seemingly loved this one I’m sure a lot of opportunities will present themselves to you – I’ll definitely watch it to see what you’ve learned from Attack The Block. But for now I can only quote Thomas Dolby by saying: “Close, but no cigar.”

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