Future Cult Hit in Fun B-Movie ‘Attack the Block’

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Average: 3.5 (4 votes)
HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

CHICAGO – Jon Favreau’s “Cowboys & Aliens” opens today and is guaranteed to make millions more at the international box office than Joe Cornish’s “Attack the Block.” That’s the bad news. The good news is that I can also guarantee you that history will regard the smaller film as the significantly better one. The line for this future cult hit starts here. Get in it before your friends tell you to.

Inspired by ‘70s films like “Assault on Precinct 13” and “The Warriors,” “Attack the Block” has already garnered a huge following since it premiered stateside at the South by Southwest Festival and knocked audiences on their asses. The buzz coming out of Austin was so deafening that I think it may ultimately hurt the film a little bit in that it’s not as flawless as the hype might lead you to believe. It’s very entertaining and I look forward to what its talented director and future superstar of a lead actor do next but it’s also inconsistent to the point of frustration. This is a solid B-movie that will find a loyal audience willing to pretend it’s a solid-A.

Attack the Block
Attack the Block
Photo credit: Screen Gems

And I don’t really blame them. While I have some issues with “Attack the Block” that I’ll get to, it’s somewhat cynical to come down on a low-budget passion project when there are so many soulless blockbuster machines making even bigger mistakes. This is a movie made by people who love movies, not merely those looking to market a shiny new toy. While that love can get a bit unfocused, it’s refreshing to see it’s alive and well in a genre that’s been particularly bereft of it, especially on the blockbuster level.

“Attack the Block” takes place on one long night in a council estate in South London. The film starts with a nurse named Sam (Jodie Whittaker) being mugged by a group of teenagers named Pest (Alex Esmail), Dennis (Franz Drameh), Jerome (Leeon Jones), Biggz (Simon Howard), and Moses (John Boyega). The victim and her assaulters are interrupted by a far-more-significant threat when something crashes into a nearby car. The boys attack the alien creature, chasing it through the neighborhood and eventually killing it. They carry their trophy through the corner of London and eventually show it off to a drug dealer named Ron (Nick Frost), his slimy client named Brewis (Luke Treadaway), and the deadly gangster Hi-Hatz (Jumayn Hunter).

Before you know it, the initial alien attacker has a few friends fall from the sky but these creatures are far scarier than the first scout beast. They have glowing, razor sharp teeth that are the only thing one can see against the outline of their black, furry shapes. They’re like angry, alien gorillas and they’ll tear you apart in the blink of an eye. And, for some reason, they’re after Moses and his boys. Can they survive? Can they save their ‘hood?

Attack the Block
Attack the Block
Photo credit: Screen Gems

“Attack the Block” has the kind of gloriously simple structure that was more common in American cinema of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Most notably, John Carpenter made several films that surely inspired it (and the “Escape From New York” poster makes that even clearer) and what works best about Cornish’s debut is that love for what could be called simple cinema – good guys inside, bad guys outside….go. When the film keeps its focus on its particularly charismatic lead and the creatures trying to eat him, it works.

Sadly, the film doesn’t always maintain its focus. It meanders a bit and doesn’t have that personality and edge that I wished it did to really elevate it to a true classic. There’s a twisted, dark tone to the films that inspired it – the works of Carpenter, George A. Romero, David Cronenberg – that’s missing here. It’s a movie that opens with a brutal mugging and isn’t afraid to kill characters but yet it’s missing that sense of urgency and true danger that’s there in the best works that inspired it. I think Cornish will find that and probably soon, maybe even with his next film.

Until then, “Attack the Block” is a fun debut; an enjoyable genre alternative that I would say should find a larger audience if I didn’t feel like saying the sun will come up tomorrow. Joe Cornish and the team behind “ATB” have nothing to worry about. They’ve made a cult classic.

“Attack the Block” stars John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameh, Leeon Jones, Simon Howard, Luke Treadaway and Nick Frost. It was written and directed by Joe Cornish. It was released in Chicago on July 29, 2011. The film is showing at AMC River East 21 in downtown Chicago.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

Content Director

Chris's picture

I can’t find a single

I can’t find a single theater in the city or south suburbs that is screening this film right now. I checked Landmark Century thinking that was a given and NO. Where the hell does one go to see a film these days? If I have to go searching for the secret underground entrance, it isn’t worth the effort.

HollywoodChicago.com's picture

Currently showing at AMC River East 21 in downtown Chicago

Chris wrote:
I can’t find a single theater in the city or south suburbs that is screening this film right now.

This film is currently showing at AMC River East 21 in downtown Chicago.

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