When Attack the Block hit American cinema screens last summer distributor Sony Pictures only gave it a limited release that, had it made lots and lots of money in its initial scant locations, probably would have been expanded. I have no idea how many American movie theatre screens it eventually played on, but I am going to venture a guess that, despite its mega positive internet buzz and general overall major nerd endorsements, Attack the Block didn’t do much at the American box office. I would have loved to have seen it on the big screen at one of my local theatres, but I never got the chance as the movie never reached my area. I bet it would have been an even better movie watching experience in a theatre than it is on TV. But it still kicks major ass on TV.
The flick stars John Boyega as Moses, the leader of a youth gang that spends a majority of its time messing around its public housing building, a council estate or “block.” By “messing around” I mean causing general public havoc. When we first meet Moses and his gang (Dennis, as played by Franz Drameh; Jerome, as played by Leeon Jones, and Biggz, as played by Simon Howard) they’re mugging new block resident Sam (Jodie Whittaker). They take her “plastic,” her phone, and her ring (it’s nothing person, it’s just what they do. And, hey, they were just as scared as Sam). Right after the mugging, a mysterious object falls out of the sky and smashes into a nearby parked car. Moses and his crew assume that what fell is a firework of some sort, as it is “Bonfire night.” They investigate the smashed car and quickly find out that what fell isn’t a misfired firework. A nasty creature of some sort attacks Moses, wounds his face, and tries to get away. The gang chases after the weird beard creature and kills it with their own fireworks. Ecstatic over the possibility that they’ve killed an actual alien from outer space, Moses and the gang take the creature’s carcass back to Moses’ apartment to figure out what they should do next. Who will pay the most for the creature’s dead body?
It’s at this point we meet Ron (the great Nick Frost), the local pot dealer that Moses and the gang sort of look up to, and Hi-Hatz (Jumayn Hunter), Ron’s boss and the area’s defacto main crime boss. Moses shows the carcass to Ron to see what he thinks the gang should do. And Moses finds out from Hi-Hatz that he wants him to become a member of his criminal organization. Working for Hi-Hatz, in Moses’ world, is a high honor and something that he definitely wants to do. But he’s going to have to figure out what to do with the carcass first.
Before anyone can figure anything out, more objects fall from the sky. Moses and his gang decide to go back out on the street, find the fallen objects, and do to them what they did to the first thing that fell on the sky. They’re going to protect their block. The gang gathers up as much weaponry as they can (bats, knives, a sword, stuff like that) and goes out to attack. Those creatures won’t know what hit them. Little do Moses and his gang know that the police are out looking for them (Sam reported the mugging to the cops) and the aliens that just fell from the sky are not the same as the one they destroyed older. No, the new creatures are much, much bigger, and much more dangerous. Hulking, jet black, hairy and blind, the new creatures have razor sharp, glow-in-the-dark teeth and immediately start chasing after Moses and his crew. Moses and his crew, along with Sam, escape back into the block and try to come up with a plan of attack.
The rest of the movie concerns that plan of attack, along with figuring out what the heck is really going on with the big ass alien creatures and what Moses really wants out of life. The plan of attack makes sense and it’s heartening to see Moses make what amounts to the right choice concerning his future life, but the reality of what’s happening is probably a little too small. I mean, it makes sense since the movie is all about protecting the block. But it’s hard to believe that the only people aware of the invasion are the ones in Moses’ block. Wouldn’t other people in the area, in nearby houses and blocks and whatnot, noticed the falling debris and called the police? The events depicted can’t possibly be as isolated as the story would have us believe. Of course, I’d imagine that a sequel would delve into the larger story of the alien invaders and what the British government knows. Wouldn’t the British armed forces have noticed via radar objects falling out of the sky? They would have had to notice, right?
Don’t get me wrong. That, for the lack of a better word, shortcoming, really doesn’t diminish the movie in any way. It’s just a bit of a nagging question that will have you wondering, in a good way, what is next for Moses and his gang. I, for one, can’t wait to see what’s next.
The performances are, by and large, amazing. John Boyega is brilliant as Moses. He has that natural badass star quality that makes you interested in him, even if he mugs people for fun. Joie Whitaker is quite good as Sam, the mugging victim that ends up having to team up with her attackers to fight off the creatures. She does come off as bland at times compared to the other members of Moses’ gang, but she’s always sympathetic and you end up rooting for her anyway. Alex Esmail is hilarious as the foul mouthed (and that’s really saying something) Pest. It’s hard to understand what the hell he’s saying most of the time but what you can make out is gold. Franz Drameh is awesome as Dennis. It’s sad what happens to his dog. At least he gets to kick ass with a sword. Leeon Jones is good as Jerome. He doesn’t get to do as much as the other members of the gang but what he does get to do is mostly funny (and kind of sad). And Simon Howard is superb as Biggz.
Jumayn Hunter is perfectly sleazy as the menacing Hi-Hatz. There isn’t a moment where you don’t like him. Luke Treadaway, as the inept hipsterish Brewis, has several great “dude, I’m high” scenes with Frost’s Ron. I bet someone could make a great little movie out of Brewis and Ron just hanging out in Ron’s apartment. And Frost, as you’d expect, is transcendent as Ron. Every second he’s onscreen is a treasure to behold. Long live Nick Frost.
And then there are Michael Ajao and Sammy Williams as Mayhem and Probs, two little kids who desperately want to be taken seriously as badass gangsters. They’re clearly not badass gangsters, but watching them talk and “act” tough is one of the flick’s many highlights. A great little movie could easily be made out of them doing something, too. I know I’d pay money to see it.
The flick’s monster and gore effects are all top notch. The jet black creatures are hard to look at at first because you can’t tell if they’re in shadow, but once you figure out that they’re not and they’re as black as space they become terrifying. The glow-in-the-dark teeth help, too, but the gigantic, seemingly formless mass of black coming at you is about as scary as you can get. Just awesome, awesome stuff.
If you haven’t seen Attack the Block yet, do it as soon as you can. Check it out on the cable channel Starz (that’s where I saw it) or buy it or rent it on DVD and Blu-ray. It’s worth it. Hopefully, if and when there is a sequel the movie gets a wider release. The franchise deserves it.
See Attack the Block. See it, see it, good God see it. It rocks.