attack the block

There’s a wholly earned stereotype surrounding British films, best encapsulated by Eddie Izzard, who referred to the standard as Room with a View and a Staircase and a Pond type movies. These are the sort of efforts that reach their dramatic high points in the most stiff and refined fashion (“What is it, Sebastian? I’m arranging matches,” is the line of dialogue Izzard concocted to illustrate the point.) There’s a whole other thread of distinctly British fare bobbing over from across the pond, though, and its instead defined by the raucous, geeky genre subversion practiced by director Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg in the films Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. These films walk the line between satire and tribute, proving that there’s life in well-worn genre trappings as long as they’re approached with a willingness to play with them rather than adhere to their most hackneyed traits.

Wright serves as a producer on the new film Attack the Block, and it’s no coincidence that the promotion for the film has played up his association, however limited it may actually be. It could slot seamlessly into a marathon showing of Wright’s features without causing a discernible dip in the cheering. Written and directed by Joe Cornish, the film is about a seemingly unremarkable group of people who band together when a gaggle of vicious alien creatures invades their downtrodden neighborhood, eventually converging on the industrial apartment complex they call home. It’s a scenario familiar from any number of other movies, but Cornish tells the story with verve and wit, led by positioning a group of local teenage thugs–first seen mugging a woman–as the unlikely heroes of the piece. The unique flavor they bring with their bullyboy banter is, all by itself, enough cause to give the film an added jolt.

Attack the Block is rife with clever details, including the different ways utilized to work around what was surely a modest budget. Let Hollywood drones pour endless dollars into drawing up intricate beasties with computer software, Cornish figures out that covering his bloodthirsty aliens with astonishingly dark black fur means that he can get by with shambling silhouettes sporting glowing turquoise choppers. He builds enough plausible quasi-science into the story to bolster its sturdiness and develops the plot so that different elements smartly pay off as it proceeds. It proves that just the tiniest bit of reinvention can completely reinvigorate the familiar. There’s a reason, after all, that this basis story gets told over and over again.

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