Mienheer Peepercorn presents…
I love Joe Cornish. There I’ve said it. When I was growing up in the nineties, the coolest show on British TV was the ‘Adam & Joe Show’. In which Joe and his mate Adam Buxton would basically sit around in their room making fun of whatever had happened that week in pop culture. Every episode would end with a five-minute remake of a famous R-rated Hollywood movie using stuffed toys. Seeing teddy bears and Barbie dolls doing ‘Trainspotting’ and ‘Seven’ and getting shot up on Normandy beaches in ‘Saving Private Lion’ was a sight to behold. Adam and Joe resurfaced a few years later with ‘Junk TV’, which was basically porn, with an hilarious comedy audio commentary over the top (genius!) So I am beyond stoked to see the movie world now waking up to these pop-cultural comic legends, and not only is Joe still around but he has emerged as a writer-director!
With this totally ridiculous, dumb-ass, exploitation, sci-fi, horror comedy that is as stupid as it is fun and essential viewing for anyone under 90. Aliens land on Earth. But they have the misfortune to land in a violent London council estate, in the middle of Chavsville. They promptly get mugged, and it all goes downhill from there. More and more crash to earth and the inhabitants of this dodgy block of flats, that’s the evil gangsta number one, the amiable skunk dealer (Nick Frost), the toffee-nosed student pothead, the underpaid NHS nurse, and the rag-tag band of mixed race mugger gang-banger street kids, have to pull together against all odds and repel this invasion on their own. It’s an absolutely GENIUS cross-section of the lower-paid end of London society, and the best thing is, it has NEVER really been shown onscreen before.
We are fully immersed in chav speech and cultural references, and the jokes, though not particularly clever, flow thick and fast. It is every horror comedy cliché but it's joyful and exuberant, and the novelty of chavs being the protagonists doesn't get old. Advancing 'Shaun Of The Dead''s Brit pop culture into the inner city is a stroke of genius. Not quite as smart as it thinks it is, but Cornish's populist instincts do the job.
Everything in ‘Attack the Block’ is original and fresh. From the groovy, rave toy, flourescant-teethed aliens to the truly kick-ass dubstep soundtrack. As with 'Human Traffic', British youth culture is the real star of this movie. It’s a dumb movie with dumb jokes. Every plot turn is predictable, but the awesome Brixton slang is new and exciting.
When the jokes wear a little thin the class clash commentary retains its bite. Thankfully a slight edge is kept in the mix, with victim and perpetrator of street crime forced to reconcile, and the Police automatically arresting the black kids at the end. Lead mugger John Boyega’s Moses emerges as a sufficiently complex, urban underclass hero rising to the moment. There is the customary cheerful face of racial harmony and innovation that London likes to present to the world. Even if the 'cute muggers' are a little too much to believe, and the class bonding can come over as Dickensian wishful thinking and somewhat patronizing.
But that’s to read too much into ‘Attack the Block’. It’s not really about the message. It’s a fun-ass, low-budget, good-time movie that is definitely from the dumb-but-big-heart school of comedy. It's not very subtle, but it is genius.
Edgar Wright exec-produced this and it’s not too much of a stretch to start thinking in terms of a British Wright/Pegg/Frost/Cornish ‘movement’ of post-Acidhouse, pop-culture-laden, exploitation comedy films. Cornish also wrote Edgar Wright’s next, ‘Ant-Man’ which seems to fit right into this category. I certainly hope so because we need more of this kind of stuff on our screens! The pair also, bizarrely, co-wrote Spielberg’s ‘Tintin’ which looks set to be one of the biggest movies worldwide this year.
‘Attack the Block’ is not going to win any awards, but it is destined to be a huge cult hit. It’s a massive home run for Joe Cornish and a great and career-making first film.