by Richard von Busack
On Guy Fawkes’ night when London is blitzed by fireworks, aliens crash land: eyeless furry beasts whose snaggled teeth glow like ultra violet lights. Dark silhouettes, they look like Muppets made out of anti-matter or Cirque de Soleil beasts on the warpath. Bloodthirsty as these monsters are, they meet their match in a gang of five punks who consider themselves the law in their Brixton housing project (“Wyndham Towers”, surrounded by Welles, Moore and Huxley Streets, nudge nudge science fiction fans).
And let these fans overpraise it, because that's what they've been doing all summer. Attack the Block starts as an urban rebellion movie and shifts, without noticeable change of tone, into sci-fi. And now that London's on fire, the film is certainly timely. But hide them or display them, these cheesy terry-cloth beasts can't raise a serious scare. Attack the Block may be thought of as a film attacking the blockbusters, but it is essentially the usual, honoring all conventions.
It deals with British social strife. Of course, it doesn’t deal with that social strife as intelligently as a lot of films (Harry Brown or Fish Tank, let’s say) unfortunately lacking aliens. And there's a lot of pose-striking in between alien attacks, a lot of thought to what an American action hero or thug says at times like these. While one hates remakes in principle it's hard not to imagine how much tougher an American version would be; it's not exactly something to boast of, but our American projects are far more scary. The dialogue doesn't hit hard, either: it's full of quotes and gets caught in parody territory sometimes (one of the kids, trying to use his cellphone to describe the monsters, says "there's too much madness to explain in one text". That's comedy relief, but it sounds like Futurama. Joe Cornish's visual slickness also cleans up this story of hoods versus monsters, such as the cool swipe he takes from Coppola's Rumblefish of graffiti on a dank wall suddenly glowing like neon thanks to a passing beam of light.
Attack the Block is a battleground, all right: it's a fight between the studied imitation and the ingenious home-made genre film. Despite it all, the latter quality eventually wins. While really getting off on an act of thuggery at the beginning (a street robbery that's supposed to be a completely justifiable act of social revenge), Attack the Block cunningly disguises its humanism, which it proudly revealed at the end. Just as it'll send Cornish to American films, it's going to be a well deserved starmaker for John Boyega, who plays the handsome and intimidating leader of the pack; clawed by the critters, he wears the wound like a $600 tribal tattoo.
Opening at the Camera Cinemas, San Jose, Calif; the AMC Loews Metreon 16, CineMark Daly City, CineMark Union City, AMC Bay Street in Emeryville, and Regal Hacienda in Dublin in Northern California; the Arclight Hollywood, Arclight Sherman Oaks, Rave Los Angeles in Los Angeles; the Regal Long Beach, AMC Ontario, Bella Terra in Huntington Beach, The Block in City of Orange, the Regal Spectrum in Irvine, and the Arclight Pasadena in Southern California.the Meridian 16 and AMC Alderwood in Seattle; the AMC Yonge and Dundas, Cineplex Colisseum Scarborough, Cineplex Colossus Woodbridge and Cineplex Queensway in Toronto; the Gateway and the Alamo Drafthouse, Austin, TX; the AMC River East 21 and the Regal Webster in Chicago.