Idiot Savant Online

John Lichman's third attempt at a personal blog and online savanting idiotic.

Great, Ali G’s Ghost: Attack The Block

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dir. Joe Cornish Theatrical It is a superlative to say Attack The Block is the best film of the year–if not the Summer; but that’s coming from quite a few people. I mean, a lot of people. Attack the Block is probably one of the year’s most positively seen genre odes that opened last March at SXSW on massive buzz and then even people afraid of the “Scott Pilgrim Effect” (e.g. too many free fan/critic screenings would deter from the film’s box office). It opened last weekend against fellow sci-fi flick Cowboys & Aliens on 8 screens to a low six-figure. It is, for all intensive purposes, the underdog of the summer that folks are clinging with to prove word-of-mouth and grassroots campaigns can work this time for Edgar Wright and company in the ashes of Pilgrim. Except that it really doesn’t.

A pull back from the stars brings us to the wonderful world of working class London shooting off fireworks, complete with John Carpenter synth to heighten the mood of young nurse-in-training Sam (Jodie Whittaker) before she runs straight into a menacing gang of kids led by Moses (John Boyega) that mug her. Then the “oh noes, aliens” plot starts up with a jump scare and the gang’s quick decision to track down the tiny monster and curb stomp it to death.

The runt is the least of their problems as it’s (ok we find out the gender later, which is creepy in context) bigger, blacker “gorilla wolf motherfucker” friends are introduced in a particularly novel, translucent way. The gang, of course, is then chased by the growing number of aliens until it shifts to a traditional survival horror encounter complete with gory-ish results (there’s an implied head crush of a kid that cuts away at the last second).

The gripe that really comes up with Block is a weird sense of exploitation–and not in the fun “this is so trashy for Sci-Fi way. The “Block” setting is a glorified housing project dominated by kids in hoodies trying to prove their A-Number One in such a way it calls back to to the old Ali G parodies (you remember before Sasha Baron Cohen was Borat? No?)

We’re thrown into London street slang like it’s going back out of style in a flash. And it represents the culture we’re watching–these are just kids after all, even if they’re toking up and slaying gorilla wolf motherfuckers. There’s a moment toward the end when Moses reveals he’s only 15, which seems to be the blunt nail to drive that point home. He’s also a non-actor, as most of the younger cast is and it really makes one question at which point Joe Cornish and the producing team behind Shaun of the Dead, Spaced and Scott Pilgrim decided to mix a cultural joke with genre again. Did they assume the Shaun formula would strike lightning twice if it were dumb kids who are “street smart”?

Who knows. But Block is a critical darling because it has a host of catch phrases and culturally unique urban criticism that they’d never dare raise against–say–American urban culture.


Written by john lichman

August 6, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Posted in Viewing Log

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