An inner city South London housing estate, if you are disadvantaged with little hope, you might form a gang with your buddies. You can intimidate people with your hoody and maybe even mug a local nurse with a flick knife. As night falls, you then fight vicious alien creatures with neon glowing razor sharp teeth as they attack your neighborhood.
Hold on, let’s back track a minute.
So begins this feature from first time feature director Joe Cornish, with a small budget, dank miserable location shoot and non-professional young actors, surely this is never going to work.
It is a testament to all those involved, that this does fit together very well. The story is small and must surely be full of plot holes, which are largely ignored as it crashes headlong forward into an exuberant chase movie.
Moses (John Boyega) is the young casual leader of his young teen gang, in training for more serious work as a drug runner, if he can earn his stripes on the street. The gang menaces trainee nurse Sam (Whittaker), who is the unlucky victim of a hold up at knife point, not realising that this will be the least of her problems that night. The gang are initially anonymous and decidedly unpleasant, exactly the group you would cross the street to avoid. Whilst chuckling at how young and ridiculous they look, until the flicknife appears of course.
On encountering a weird character that appears to have fallen from the sky crushing a parked car, the gang then beat the extra terrestrial to death in a tin shed, as you do. ET DOA or “first contact” followed by “last contact” in quick succession.
The gang then meet the real aliens, vicious furry creatures that run on four legs and rip anything in their path to shreds. Armed with nothing more than a pizza delivery scooter, pedal bicycles, a few swords from the walls of their apartment and some fireworks, the gang set out to defend their territory.
The film is a frothy concoction of dark humour, alien invasion and scary monster movie. The young cast are game for movie fun. Although, at times the film pulls no punches and is moderately scary in places, if you think that no youngsters will get chomped, you may have to think again.
John Boyega as Moses is a real find, with definite screen charisma, he could go further with the right guidance. Pest (Esmail) is the white wannabee gangsta, speaking with so much gangsta rap, he is sometimes difficult to understand – “That’s an alien bruv, believe it”.
A handy dope smoking trainee zoologist, handy for pointing out “it’s an alien”, the co-opted nurse and the remaining gang members, Jerome, Biggs and Dennis round out the opposing force. The group are also also assisted in their mini war by their own mini-me gang, Probs and Mayhem, who join the fray with a customized supersoaker water pistol, kids should most definitely not try this at home.
Nick Frost pops in as “Ron” to support the local drug kingpin “Hi-Hatz” (Hunter), as he grows massive amounts of weed in his own artificially lit warehouse at the top of the block. Frost adds a bit of structure to the enterprise but the story zips along anyway, clearly the kids having as much fun as the audience.
The film is short but highly enjoyable although critically well received, it has yet to find a large audience, which is a shame as it is worth seeking out. Not a lot of depth on offer but the initial street thugs are shown to be just scared bored kids with nothing better to do. That is until aliens force them to discover all the traits we should all possess, friendship, bravery and sacrifice. Albeit without the catalyst of a furry alien with big teeth attacking your apartment block.
As one character states, “No one is going to call you Mayhem, if you keep acting like such a pussy”
Great unusual fun, with aliens, tower blocks, inventive kids and some real scares, this is a crowd pleasing film that just needs a crowd to please.
Recommended, “respect due”