Attack the Block (2011 movie) review…

Attack the Block (2011 movie) review after the break…

Attack the Block (2011 movie) review…

“Attack the Block” is a 2011 movie originating from England about a young group of thugs who stumble upon an invasion of alien creatures. The aliens invade the urban environment that the thugs live in and eventually a young female nurse, a marijuana dealer, his best customer and the head of the drug operation all become aware of the invasion as well. Soon, it becomes clear to the thugs that they are all that stand in the way of the aliens wreaking havoc on in their apartment complex unless they fight back.

To compare the British comedies “Paul” and “Attack the Block” would be a bit unfair; While both contain science-fiction elements and categorize themselves as comedies, the strains of comedy and science fiction are significantly different from one another. “Paul” was more slapstick with unrealistic science fiction elements; “Attack the Block” derives much of it’s comedy from the increasingly peculiar situations and circumstances that the characters face (the thugs steal a van and then inadvertently smash it into the drug lord’s car) while the science fiction elements are more threatening and unknown.

Yet it would be hard to not look at “Paul” and “Attack the Block” through the same critical eye. “Paul” stumbled, in part, because it was a series of jokes bolted onto a no-frills travel movie. “Attack the Block” succeeds better because the humor is directly woven into the storyline – You sympathize with the young female nurse who must now team up with the very thugs who robbed her hours before; You smirk when you realize that it was the drug customer’s car that got smashed when the first alien landed and that his abysmal evening has yet to reach it’s bottom.

“Attack the Block” is, by no means, perfect – From faraway, the story is tightly-written which allows for satisfying sub-plots to be realized. The determination of the drug lord to “get even” with the thugs, the nurse who gets constantly intertwined with the group’s alien encounters and the drug customer’s abysmal evening are all satisfying sub-plots that entertain individually as well as raise the entire film as a whole. Yet by trading slapstick for a more subtle comedy and certainly more serious science fiction then a talking, cursing bipedal alien, “Attack the Block” opens itself up to some surprisingly large criticisms.

Perhaps the most significant criticism is that it is difficult to root for a band of thugs. I can not help but remember the scene in the movie “Raw Deal” when Robert Davi confirms that Arnold Schwarzenegger is fooling the mafia with an alias and replies (not verbatim, it’s been a while since I’ve seen the film), “Cops versus cops… You give me no one to root for.” The same holds true with “Attack the Block” – Why did you have your protagonist be a mugger who victimizes a young woman in the first moments of the film? It doesn’t matter that he becomes more heroic throughout the film, he is a violent criminal. I understand that other criminals have been portrayed as heroes in the past but there’s a reason why film makers opt not to have child rapists, arsonists and other unsavory types as protagonists – Because people hate them. You can afford to have Sylvester Stallone as a protagonist assassin because being the target of an assassin is a foreign concept to most people; Most people do not make decisions in their lives that would cause them to be the target of a high-priced assassin. Con artists, as horrible as they are, often do not physically hurt people. Petty thieves can be made sympathetic on screen if they never harm anyone or rob from those who are excessively wealthy. Street muggers, though, are very accessible to the rank-and-file moviegoer and most people have either been on the receiving end of a mugging (or robbery) or know someone who has. Being mugged is not a pleasant experience; It is very stressful and intimidating.I don’t understand why the film decides to take this route because it is ultimately very unsuccessful.

In fact, all of the thugs partake in the mugging and this dilutes any sympathy that the film tries so hard to generate for them when the aliens invade. When a few of the thugs are eventually killed, it doesn’t matter because they are muggers. Also, the degree of Stockholm Syndrome (a hostage sympathizing with their kidnapper) that the young nurse exhibits when she teams up with the muggers is especially deflating – No attempt at conniving her stolen items back? No attempt at using the aliens to get justice on the muggers?

The small budget for this film could possibly explain one of the largest plot holes of the movie and this is why I don’t criticize it as much as the others, but where were the police? Two of their cops are gruesomely decimated, there are large, furry aliens roaming all around but no one picks up a phone to call the police? At one point, two young boys look up to see over a dozen of these aliens climb up the side of an apartment building and no one says or sees anything? Really? In this day and age of smart phone cameras?

One positive about the film that must be recognized were the great creature effects. I thought that the eyeless, glowing teeth creatures were very intimidating and imposing, a furry “Alien” that walks on all fours but still original enough to be mysterious and effective. The fact that some of the cast dies in their attempt to defend their apartment building (or simply evade the creatures) was a bold move on the part of the director.

Being a foreign film, it was refreshing to see relatively unknown actors and their relative anonymity gave their performances a bit more authenticity then would otherwise be given had they been more established. There was no, for instance, attempts at believing Bruce Willis was a drunken priest or Harrison Ford as a washed up truck driver with a thick, southern accent. If anything, the lone recognized actor in the film, Nick Frost, stuck out like a sore thumb as a marijuana grower because he doesn’t have a significant impact on the film other then being Nick Frost.

It’s difficult to ultimately be indifferent to a film that tries harder then most to be more good then bad, more original then hackneyed. To be fair, the film’s storyline is far tighter then “Paul” but also sacrifices a lot more believability in it’s pursuit of tightness. “Paul,” with it’s already improbably talking, snarky alien, couldn’t care less if all of it’s believability vanished before the opening credits ended because it doesn’t need to rely upon it whereas “Attack the Block” does. Yet, ultimately, “Attack the Block” suffers from self-inflicted wounds to both artistic decisions and leaps of logic greater then leaping from one walkway to another one (viewers will understand the reference).  I haven’t even breached the “X-Files” conundrum that the film opens, whereby the police are completely unaware of the alien invasion around them. There’s no reason to comment on the accents – We all have them and if you want proof, just move to another part of your country or another country.

“Attack the Block,” by default of a tighter storyline, effective creature special effects, and anonymous casting, is a better film then “Paul.” That doesn’t make it, though, a great film and that’s too bad – A bit of storyline tinkering would’ve made it the great film it strives so hard to become.

2 Responses to “Attack the Block (2011 movie) review…”

  1. Darius Burgess Says:

    This is not about petty “heroism”. This is about getting your teeth kicked in for screwing up. The protagonists are not a bunch of dehumanised racial stereotypes that serve as little more than glorified thug-life chic propaganda. They get thrown into a situation where they just can’t wriggle out with ease and blame the evil, racist government, as the lead Moses tries at one point in a desperate attempt at denying his involvement in the affair. That he ends up being the “hero” of the hour doesn’t change the fact he’s still a mugger, and he’ll still have to face the consequences, so neither he nor his buddies will get away scot-free.

    • Lutonaut Says:

      Hi Darius and thank you for reading my blog.

      My memory of the film has faded but, upon re-reading my review, I do not feel that anything about that review needs to be revised.

      If I understand your comment correctly, you are disagreeing with my assessment concerning the dilution of emotional connection one feels towards Moses and his gang because of the opening moments of the film where he mugs a person.

      I’m not sure if a response is necessary but here it is anyway: If you are going to tell a story than you need characters that the audience can sympathize with and root for. It is hard to root for a criminal (and his co-horts who were complicit) who has just mugged someone. Yes, the character starts at a “low” so that they may be eventually portrayed higher by the end of the story (hence a character arc, ‘what have they learned as a result of the events of the story?’). However, mugging a person is not the best way to endear the audience to that character. If you do not have sympathetic characters to care about, your story suffers. This problem persists in such genres such as zombie movies and slasher movies, where the “sympathetic” characters often aren’t for one reason or another, resulting in a film where the audience gets their satisfaction with how the victims die rather than their struggle to live against seemingly overwhelming odds.

      In the end, what is deemed “sympathetic” is in the eye of the beholder or, in this case, the movie viewer. It would appear that we agree to disagree on whether or not Moses and his gang qualifies as “sympathetic” characters worthy enough to be protagonists for this particular movie.

      Again, thank you for reading my blog.

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