ATTACK THE BLOCK unleashed a wild ride thriller from Britain that became a deserved cult item. That status came after surprisingly bombing at the box office in 2011, despite good reviews from critics and enthusiastic initial audience response. Smartly written and to-the-metal directed by Joe Cornish, the financial thud was likely a distribution fubar, since it bore sufficient ingredients to have made for a smash. *
“Nah nah nah, trust bruv! There’s bear creatures chasin’ us! Big alien gorilla wolf mother fuckers! I swear! Some creature fell from outer space then jumped Moses and he bored it and now its brethren have come down in force blood! Then Moses got shiffed by the feds and them things attacked the bully van and savaged the bluefoot so we jacked the van and… we’s running for our lives right now cuz, believe!”
South London. The fireworks on Guy Fawkes Night are further enlivened by a rain of alien visitors from Outer Where-the-F? One of the drop-in’s interrupts a teen gang led by ‘Moses’ (John Boyega, 18, feature debut) in the process of mugging ‘Samantha Adams’ (Jodie Whittaker) a nurse who lives in ‘Wyndham Tower’, their housing block. As the nurse flees, the kids kill the creature. But they’re shortly pursued by its fellows: pitch black, dog-meets-ape masses of fury with spiky skin and luminescent rows of neon-blue teeth. The block becomes a stand & fight situation, and the slang-slinging punks are forced to turn to the nurse for help.
In his feature debut, director Cornish smartly kept the action to a trim 88 minutes, and his script is sparked with Brit tough-teen argot so sharply finessed by his cast (mostly unknown) that they give the droog patter from A Clockwork Orange a run for its yarbles. While the characters (nurse and a few stoners excepted) are hardly warm & fuzzy examples of Hope & Glory, the acting is tight, the editing rockets, the score pulses, the special effects creative and creepy. After the somewhat off-putting opener, it clicks into gear and moves like a viper.
With Alex Esmail (‘Pest’), Simon Howard, Luke Treadaway (‘Brewis’, who actually has an intellect), Franz Dremeh, Jumayne Hunter (‘Hi-Hatz’, the real psycho), Nick Frost (funny as pot dealing slacker ‘Ron’), Danielle Vitalis, Leeon Jones, Michael Ajao (‘Mayhem’), Sammy Williams (‘Probs’).
* Made for $13,000,000, it earned just $6,206,000 worldwide (only $1,024,000 in North America, where it played in just sixty-six theaters: what did they expect? But post-mortem buzz persisted for a decade, and in the early 2020’s momentum built towards a sequel, with Boyega by then known for his Star Wars roles and Whittaker having earned stripes as Doctor Who. “Allow it.”