Attack the Block Review


A few weeks ago, I foolishly turned to Michael Bay and Transformers: Dark of the Moon to satisfy a “mindless entertainment” craving. If only I held off a little longer…

Attack the Block is exactly what I hope for from an action movie. It’s fast-paced, witty, goofy in all the right ways, and has quality production values. It’s got quirky, interesting characters, and rookie director Joe Cornish isn’t afraid to take a few chances. Ultimately, the film doesn’t amount to a whole lot, but it’s a wild 90-minute ride that I’m glad I took.

In the South London slums, a young woman, Sam (Jodie Whittaker), is robbed by a gang of punk kids led by Moses (John Boyega). The theft is interrupted, however, by a creature that falls from the sky. It scratches up Moses’ face something good, and he and his friends go after it, eventually cornering it and killing it while their human prey gets away.

Unfortunately, what starts as novelty soon turns dangerous. This creature’s much more dangerous friends arrive on Earth with revenge in mind. These pitch-black wolflike creatures with several sets of neon green teeth start killing anyone and everyone in their path, and though Moses and his friends would like to smash in some alien skulls, it’s not so easy—especially with a murderous drug dealer also on his tail.

Attack the Block never takes itself all that seriously, which is a little surprising considering there are in fact a few deaths among the main characters. Cornish, thankfully, infuses the film with a thumping fun score and really silly effects to achieve the light-hearted tone. And the fact that the main characters are pretty obnoxious helps us stay detached. Watching poor London kids getting their limbs ripped off by aliens would be scarring. See some punk gang members fight to their death, however, is pretty damn entertaining.

In an era when less usually is more as far as movie monsters are concerned, I found it bold and refreshing to get a lot of full-on shots of Attack the Block‘s ridiculous-looking aliens. It helped the film’s tone immensely to have these hideous looking gorillas running around, flashing their glowing teeth. And the inventive ways in which many of them get killed is another of Attack the Block‘s small pleasures (keep an eye out for the scene in which the girls get their hands on one of the aliens).

Would if I could praise some of the young actors in Attack the Block, but they do feel pretty generic. At least they have some good chemistry together, and their fast-paced dialogue was a treat. The biggest name in the film is Nick Frost (likely on-hand to enhance the Shaun of the Dead/Hot Fuzz comparisons, which I think are apt). Unfortunately, Frost’s role is quite small and he doesn’t have much of an opportunity to stand out.

Attack the Block occasionally feels preachy, but Cornish does a solid job at keeping any message in check. That’s not why I watched Attack the Block, and I’m assuming it’s not why you will. I wanted to see some fun alien vs. human action, and that’s what it delivered. Anything else would have just been a distraction. Action directors should pay attention to what Cornish has done. They might learn a thing or two about how to really entertain an audience.

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