The British ‘hood movie has gone from near-the-knuckle realism (Kidulthood) to fist-in-the-face parody (Anuvahood) of late, but Attack The Block beams in from a whole new angle.
Billed as ‘Inner City vs. Outer Space’, this feature debut from Joe Cornish (yes, he of The Adam And Joe Show) offers a deliciously simple premise and sticks to it like glue, as hoodies becomes heroes in the midst of one almighty alien invasion.
The block in question is a South London housing estate, which comes under threat from a bunch of fluorescent-jawed ETs that, despite their furry demeanour, are about as cuddly as a box of porcupines. They’re peeved that local teen thug Moses (John Boyega) and his gang killed one of their own after it crash-landed on their manor.
Soon enough, the block is swarming with the blighters – forcing Moses and his massive to defend their turf.
Along for the ride is trainee nurse neighbour Sam (Jodie Whittaker), reluctantly teaming with the boys despite them mugging her early on, posh pot head Brewis (Luke Treadaway, hilarious) and – when he’s not hiding out in his high-rise skunk factory – local dealer Roy (Nick Frost). From here, the action is relentless – and also repetitive.
What’s lacking is a true sense of escalating peril. True, Cornish manages to conjure some genuine scares from his formless, black-asnight alien critters, but when it’s one after another after another of the same design, returns steadily diminish.
Meanwhile, among the young cast, it’s only the charismatic Boyega who really rises to the challenge. Still, the street slang and pop-culture nods don’t feel forced; rather, witty references to Harry Potter and FIFA video games serve to remind us that these are just kids playing at being adults. And that’s its secret weapon.
After the self-consciously epic, po-faced stylings of Skyline and Battle: Los Angeles, Block sticks it to E.T. with a bracing blast of teen spirit.
However much goodwill you chuck at it, this isn’t quite the instant cult classic you want it to be. But now and then it’s as blinding as those alien gnashers.