Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Terminal Review -" Attack the Block" = New "Ghostbusters"?

Sho 'Nuf Bruv

Where do you even begin trying to describe a movie like this?  Watching Attack the Block  (which is still in limited release unfortunately) is like watching a mashup of some of my all-time favorite movies, packaged  in a modern tale about south-London street urchins surviving a very local alien invasion. Yet, it still retains the charm, vulnerability, and unpredicatbility that director Joe Cornish has come to perfect in his other films like Sean of the Dead , Hot Fuzz , and Scott Pilgrim .

The movie starts off like an homage to Akira,  as 5 local teens who live on "the block" patrol the streets on their bikes looking to for an easy mugging. As if the Akira-ness wasn't enough, even one of the kids rolls around with a samurai sword, a red scooter, and helmet:

The music beats are slick and urban, and there is this sense of danger to these kids, that they are wild and unpredictable. It also comes off as very poignant, being that the film  is English and there is so much in the news these days about racial tension in that area. Yes, 4 out of the 5 kids are Black, as they probably would be demographically in that area of town.  Though we come to find out that it is really only the ring leader, Moses, who has any real edge to him and that the other kids just do it for a cheap thrills, it's an important starting point for the audience to get a glimpse into that cultural slice.

The topic of race in this film can heavy handed at times, but the way the story unravels and as we learn about these kids, our preconceptions are pushed to the side as it should be. It's never explicitly stated that it's a black and white thing, but the film often goes out the tell the audience that once the aliens hit, it's an us (human) struggle.

It's also an allegory!

As the aliens come crashing like shooting stars to earth, however, the film tonally shifts to a mixture between Sean of the Dead and Ghostbusters (which is referenced as well). The biker gang encounters a weaker alien which shows up first, hunting it down and slaying it for sport; yet, once the bigger and meaner back-up crash lands, all bets are off. There is a raw sense of unpredictable danger,  as people (and kids) are visciously killed by what seems like gorillas that are blacker "than me cuz," and come equipped with wicked bio-luminescent mouths full of rows of razor sharp teeth. The way they are shot at times make them my favorite monsters that I have seen in a long while.

 Credit again goes to Joe Cornish for keeping the stakes high and the fear strong, yet there is enough humor injected to keep the movie flying by. Once the final act in the main tenant building of the "the block" comes, the comparisons to Ghostbusters really get obvious, but in a refreshing way (the final showdown is pretty reminiscent of a famous Marshmallow man final battle). Hell, I have craved a "new wave" Ghostbusters for years - little did I know it would come in a cool 90 minute package from across the pond. If you are in Austin and love the Drafthouse, don't miss it!


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