Public Enemy said, "Don't believe the hype." Hype is a double-edge sword for while it can raise awareness and generate interest, it can also result in a big letdown when whatever was overpraised is given a lukewarm, "It was OK, but it wasn't all that." Shaun of the Dead, Little Miss Sunshine and even Fast Five could stood for a little less up-front praise. Now riding a heap of buzz from its Midnight screenings at SXSW comes the British inner city vs. outer space sci-fi/action/monster movie Attack the Block. It doesn't have a US release date yet - probably sometime this fall after an appearance at Comic-Con - but to capitalize on the SXSW bounce, screening were held tonight and once again, it was OK, but it wasn't all that.
I find it fascinating sometimes when pulling the trailers for these reviews to watch them to see how divorced from the movie they're advertising. Many times I've wished I could've seen the movie the trailer was selling because the actual film sucked. I've said that movie trailers are the highest form of false advertising, though I suppose political ads are worse. ("Call your Representative and ask them to stop drinking kitten blood while listening to Train.") To understand what most of the people lauding Attack the Block are conveniently leaving out, take a look at the trailer:
OK, it looks like sassy British kids with Jamaican-sounding patois (it's really, REALLY heavy in the movie, though not so bad as to need subtitles) fighting off monsters with pluck and fireworks. Did you notice the bit where the five mostly-minority kids are surrounding the white woman and robbing her at knifepoint, yanking her ring off her finger, etc.? No? Well, that's how the movie opens, by introducing the supposed heroes in a manner usually reserved for villains. While it sets the stage for the obvious redemption story arc, it's off-putting because we're not sure if we should be rooting for the thugs or the monsters trying to eat them.
When the mugging is interrupted by a meteor smashing into a nearby car, the woman flees and in the process of looting the wreckage, the leader Moses (no symbolism there), is clawed by something that scurries off into the night. The kids hunt it down and beat it to death and drag the carcass back to their council estate block. Later, more meteors land and legions of eyeless beasts that look and move like wolf-gorilla hybrids with rows of glowing neon teeth emerge, hunting the gang down. Hijinks ensue, though how eyeless monsters have interplanetary spaceships is never explained.
Once it gets past the misguided opening, Attack the Block is actually a respectable sci-fi/comedy/horror/action mashup with many good moments. The script is smart about setting up details that pay off later at crucial moments and the kids, once their crawl out of the sympathy sub-basement that writer-director Joe Cornish starts them in, are an appealing bunch. While the opening attack sets up the weird aspect of the gang and their victim crossing paths and changing their minds about each other - *SPOILER ALERT!* - they could've showed the hopeless dead-end lifestyles of the poor and unfortunate differently through some old-fashioned property violence and hooliganism, not tread into A Clockwork Orange territory.
As for the wild overpraise, if this movie was set in an American project block or ghetto, the same critics would be excoriating it as full of racist stereotypes, but because it's foreign, it's A-OK. (Look for 50 Cent to play Hi-Hatz and Allison Brie to play Sam in the inevitable remake with a bunch of Hispanic actors as the street thugs. Believe!)
Score: 7/10. Rent the DVD.
We were supposed to see The Hangover Pt. 2 two nights ago, but the screening was waaaaaay overbooked into a too small theater. This show was held at the Emagine Theater in Novi and I was decidedly unimpressed with the place. The Sony drones running the screening were only good for threatening the audience to not use their cell phones because when the movie started and was obviously out of focus - and I even called out, "How about focusing?" - nothing was fixed and the room full of sheeple sat and accepted the sub-standard presentation. Madness.