ATTACK THE BLOCK (2011)
ATTACK THE BLOCK (2011)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares
There were a few movies that got a lot of buzz this year, despite very limited theatrical releases and pretty much going straight to DVD. These include STAKE LAND, YELLOWBRICKROAD (both of which will be reviewed here in the coming weeks), and ATTACK THE BLOCK.
Currently available on DVD and on cable OnDemand, ATTACK THE BLOCK has a simple enough premise: aliens come down to earth in meteorites one night and a handful of street kids have to save the world by taking them on. If only it was that easy.
When we first see the street gang (made up of teenagers in a London housing project), they’re mugging a nurse named Sam (Jodie Whittaker), who just wants to get back to her apartment in one piece. Soon after they rob her at knife-point, leader Moses (John Boyega) finds a toothy little alien in a car that has been struck by a meteor (which he then tries to rob). It bites him in the face, and he swears revenge. The kids chase the thing to a work shed where they bombard it with firecrackers and then stomp it to death.
They then carry the dead alien around town to show it off to their friends. This leads them to the penthouse apartment of Ron (Nick Frost from SHAUN OF THE DEAD, 2004), a pot dealer who works for the volatile gangsta, Hi-Hatz (Jumayn Hunter). Moses asks if they can keep the alien in the secret pot-growing room, since they’re sure someone will pay big money for it. Hi-Hatz agrees, but in return gives Moses some heroin to sell, telling him it’s time for him to step up to the next level.
That little alien wasn’t the only visitor to earth that night, however. More meteors fall to earth, and soon there are lots of great, big, furry monsters with glow-in-the-dark teeth that make the first alien look like a muppet—and they’re angry! The monsters infect the block, seeming to hone in on Moses and his gang for some reason. The kids try to stay alive by staying one step ahead of the beasties, as well as the police who are swarming the neighborhood.
At one point, Moses is grabbed by the cops and thrown in a police van, but the monsters make quick work of the lawmen before they can bring him in. At this point Moses and Sam (who was being driven around to ID the hoodlums) join forces and her nursing talents come in handy when one of the gang, Pest (Alex Esmail) get his leg all bit up.
The rest of the movie is pretty much a chase flick, as Moses and the kids run from monsters, cops, and then an angry Hi-Hatz who comes after them shooting his gun off when they accidentally drive the police van into his car.
Despite the fact that this was clearly a low-budget movie, it has pretty good production values, and the monsters aren’t half bad. They look like big, black furry bears with no eyes (one kid says they’re a cross between gorillas and wolves), and those glowing teeth are kind of a cool effect. Since the monsters are shown A LOT in this movie, especially toward the end, they could pretty much ruin the film if they looked too hokey. But these creatures look believable enough, even if the filmmakers clearly didn’t have a lot of cash to work with.
The acting is also very good, despite the lack of big name stars (except for Frost, who is mostly here for comic relief, along with a rich boy customer named Brewis, played by Luke Treadaway). Whittaker is very good as Sam the nurse, and the kids who play the gang are all pretty effective, especially Boyega as 15-year-old gang leader Moses (as the movie goes on, you’re surprised how young these kids are— or at least are supposed to be).
I have to admit, I started off rooting for the aliens, since I didn’t like the kids at all. But, as it went along, thanks to good writing and acting, I slowly warmed to the gang members, even the more annoying ones.
Also along for the ride are some teenage girls who are friends of Moses and the gang, led by a girl named Tia (Danielle Vitalis), as well as two 9-year-old wannabe gangsters named Probs (Sammy Williams) and Mayhem (Michael Ajao) who follow the gang around, and are good for some laughs.
This is a pretty impressive debut from director/writer, Joe Cornish, whose work before this was mostly for British television. He was also one of the screenwriters for the upcoming Steven Spielberg film, THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN.
The plot is kept pretty simple and straightforward throughout, which is a good thing, since it would have lost momentum if it got overly complicated. And, for the most part, it works. I can see why this one has been getting so much positive buzz.
I don’t think ATTACK THE BLOCK is one of the best movies I’ve seen this year, but it was definitely better than I expected, and deserves a rental.
I give it two and a half knives.
© Copyright 2011 by L.L. Soares
L.L. Soares gives ATTACK THE BLOCK ~ two and a half knives!