Mat Rempits versus aliens ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mat Rempits versus aliens

Attack the Block
My rating:

So I was quite pleased to find this movie on our local cinema schedules. I'd read this glowing review from io9, one of my favourite time-wasting sites, and I was quite pleased that Platinum Pictures Sdn Bhd (no, I've never heard of them either) had brought it to our shores. More power to them, I say! There are too many cool movies out there that never make it to local cinemas, both from Hollywood and elsewhere, and hearing about them on the internet just makes it all the more painful to learn that no distributor has the balls to bring them in - or worse, canceled their initial plans to do so. (Where the hell is Space Battleship Yamato, goddammit?!) So yes, I hope Platinum Pictures gets some good returns on Attack the Block, and I hope it encourages them to bring in even more obscure-but-possibly-really-good movies.

Ironic then, that I can't really recommend this one. It's just not as good as I'd hoped.

In a run-down housing estate in South London, nurse Sam (Jodie Whittaker) is robbed by a group of youths led by Moses (John Boyega) - and at the same time, a meteor crashes nearby, and a strange alien creature emerges from it. The gang, which also comprises Pest (Alex Esmail), Dennis (Franz Drameh), Jerome (Leeon Jones) and Biggz (Simon Howard), chase it and kill it, but it is only the precursor to even more meteor impacts - and the creatures that emerge this time are much bigger and more vicious. Muggers and muggee must join forces to fight off the alien invasion of their block, occasionally aided and hindered by the local residents - weed dealer Ron (Nick Frost), his regular customer Brewis (Luke Treadaway), 9-year-old wannabe toughs Probs (Sammy Williams) and Mayhem (Michael Ajao), as well as resident gangster Hi-Hatz (Jumayn Hunter) whom Moses inadvertently runs afoul of.

It's a pretty brilliant premise I gotta say, one in which the heroes' scrappy kickassity could well be matched by the filmmakers' own. But I'm sorry to say, somehow it just never came together for me. The characters were never interesting enough, the dialogue never funny enough, the plot never compelling enough, the action scenes never exciting enough, and the whole movie just never as much fun as it promised to be. I really was expecting more. But maybe it's just me, and maybe the premise alone is enough to satisfy most folks. Yes, it is definitely Mat Rempits vs. aliens in South London, and if that sounds at all intriguing to you, then maybe you'll like it.

I certainly like the way the plot plays out, with Sam and the gang learning to overcome their mutual suspicion of each other (most of which comes from Sam, and wholly justified at that), as well as a nicely redemptive character arc for Moses. There are also some genuinely funny lines, mostly from Pest and occasionally from badasses-to-be Probs and Mayhem. Seeing that the aliens are vicious maneaters complete with slavering jaws, there's more than one bloody death scene that makes it almost an action-horror hybrid (it certainly owes a great debt to James Cameron's Aliens). And you gotta admire writer-director Joe Cornish's can-do spirit, that impressed British filmmaking luminary Edgar Wright to get on board as executive producer.

Still, I can't help but feel that the execution of a terrific premise and an almost-as-good screenplay fell short of all that potential. It's partly because of Cornish's budget limitations. The alien design is pretty cool, being impenetrably jet-black with glowing fangs (anybody else reminded of Out of this World? Retro gaming FTW!), but we never quite get a good enough look at them to register them as a real threat. Nor do we ever get a satisfactory explanation as to the aliens' invasion plan (the one we do get being quite unsatisfactory). Also, Cornish's direction sometimes gets annoying, especially when he breaks out the shaky-cam that reduces his action scenes to a confusing mess - and more inexplicably, deep close-ups on his actors to the point where half their faces are out of frame. What is this, Lagenda Budak Setan?

And I think the acting has a lot to do with it too. John Boyega does a great badass scowl, but I would've liked to see a bit more dimension to Moses - perhaps a bit of vulnerability, especially we find out how old he really is. Characterization for the rest of the gang is also spotty, and except for Moses the protagonist and Pest the designated comic relief, I always found it a little hard to tell them apart (or to care much what happens to them). The real letdown in the acting department is Jodie Whittaker, who is just wooden. Being the only somewhat-normal person in the movie, she serves the purpose of the viewpoint character, who in a movie with freaky goings-on needs to be properly freaked out. Whittaker's choice to underplay her scenes does a lot to hurt the film's effectiveness.

But y'know, I take it back - I think I will recommend Attack the Block after all. I hate reviews that just say "you'll like this if this is the kind of thing you like" (*coughCinemaOnlinecough*), but a 3-star movie is one that I'm willing to concede may appeal more to others - especially if they, well, like this kind of thing. On the other hand, if you have had bad personal experiences with juvenile delinquents, it may colour your enjoyment of this film, so be duly warned. I like a good "versus aliens" movie as much as anyone, especially a fresh and original take on it - which this one certainly is - so if you do too, by all means check it out and reward Platinum Pictures' investment.

Expectations: ya Allah, S. Baldev Singh lagi


Nizam said...

Caught this movie two days ago. Loved it tremendously. If you didn't review this movie, I think I might not even know this movie is even shown in Malaysian cinemas.


Nizam Zakaria