Thursday, July 4, 2013

Movie Review: Attack the Block (2011)

Attack the Block (2011) written and directed by Joe Cornish

What better way to celebrate the Fourth of July than watching a great alien invasion film set on Guy Fawkes' Day, the big fireworks holiday here in the UK. Skip Independence Day (you've already seen it too many times, haven't you?) and watch this instead!

MPAA rating

Rated R for creature violence, drug content and pervasive language.

ZPAA rating

Teens and up

Gore level

2.5 out of 10--Occasional bits of violence are gory, including one scene where a guy's throat is ripped out, but the film doesn't dwell on the injuries.

Other offensive content

Lots of swearing (especially by children and teens); some drug use and drug dealing; the alien monsters are mildly scary; one mugging.

Synopsis & Review

A classic plot line in American Westerns is the "defend your land" scenario where a small group (usually a family) needs to fight against some outsiders (be they bloodthirsty Apaches or rival ranchers or a vengeful gang of criminals) who want to muscle in. The plot has been used again and again in many genres. One recent entry is Joe Cornish's Attack the Block, a science fiction alien invasion version of the story.

Set in south London, the story begins with a gang of young hoodies who mug a woman on Guy Fawkes Night (which explains the fireworks in the sky). They get interrupted by something crashing down from the sky that's not a firework. The object wrecks a car. The head hoodie, a boy named Moses, investigates the car and discovers some kind of wolf/dog monster who scratches him up. Moses and his posse hunt down the creature. After they kill it, they realize it must be some alien and they think they can cash in if they find some interested scientist or TV program. So they head to the safest spot they know, the local drug dealer's "weed room," where he grows marijuana. They run into Hi-Hatz, the sadistic drug lord for the neighborhood. Hi-Hatz recruits Moses to sell for him, giving Moses a small amount of drugs. The boys have bigger problems when more alien creatures come crashing down and threaten the 'hood.

The movie is standard B-movie fare--the creatures are scary but not too scary; the comedy is okay but not great; bigger issues (in this case racism) are touched on but not dealt with in depth. The story keeps viewers engaged because the characters are more like real people than like stereotypes or archetypes (though the aliens are pretty one-dimensional). Even though the gang is very unsympathetic at the beginning, they show a lot more of their humanity and vulnerability as the story goes on.

The woman they mugged is an ongoing character. When she is reunited with the gang through circumstance, their interactions are real and they come to understand each other better. This plot line provides a center to the movie that keeps it from being too cliched or too formulaic or too uninteresting. The realness of the relationships raises this to the high end of the B-movie category.

Movie Trailer

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