On a trip to England several years back, a friend of mine introduced me to a series called The Adam and Joe Show; a sort of rapid-fire geek humor sketch show that featured, amongst other things, a hilarious bit using Star Wars figures and other toys to mock popular BBC series and current events of the time (this was long before Robot Chicken). Nearly a decade later, hosts Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish still work together on their BBC 6 radio show, Adam and Joe, but the latter has recently been making a name for himself in cinema with his 2011 feature directorial debut - the rollicking sci-fi/action/comedy Attack the Block - coming to Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures.
Moses (John Boyega) and his gang of burgeoning young thugs - Pest (Alex Esmail); Jerome (Leeon Jones); Dennis (Franz Drameh), and Biggz - (Simon Howard) – ambush young nurse, Sam (Jodie Whitaker), on her way home from work. While the boys rob her at knifepoint, a fireball falls from the sky and demolishes a vehicle next to them, sending the boys scattering whilst Sam runs off for help. Moses crawls into the flaming wreckage to see just what it was that crashed into it, but is attacked by a snarling beastie that claws Moses’ face and runs off into the adjacent park. Angry, Moses and his boys follow after it and, after a protracted struggle involving all manner of hitting implements and fireworks, emerge from the park victorious, their prey proudly dangled from the tip of a baseball bat.
Figuring they’ve killed something of value , the boys bring the dead creature to what they consider the safest place on the “block”; Ron’s (Nick Frost) rooftop flat, which houses the ultra-fortified entrance to a huge growing room owned by local drug kingpin Hi-Hatz (Jumayn Hunter). Hi-Hatz allows Moses to keep his kill there, so long as Moses agrees to peddle some of his wares for him. Moses’ debut as a “made man” goes horribly awry, however, as more creatures – larger and more vicious than the first – fall from the sky. Matters are further complicated when Moses is identified by Sam, who’s riding along with the police hoping to assist in the arrest of her attackers, leading to an uneasy alliance between the gang and their victim as they fight together to stop the alien attack on their block.
Attack the Block is a very funny and action-packed piece of sci-fi light, with a great cast (especially the magnetic Boyega, who has the looks and intensity of a young Denzel Washington), solid scripting, and energetic direction by Cornish. As I watched the film, I kept thinking how it was like the grindhouse/urban answer to JJ Abrams saccharine and overlong Super 8, with hilariously over-the-top gore, extra-colorful language, and a completely irresponsible (and oh-so-British) sense of humor. If I really have to come up with a nit to pick, I will say that things do take a while to get going again after the first alien drops from the sky, but, once the invasion starts in earnest, Attack the Block is relentlessly funny and hugely entertaining stuff.
Sony brings Attack the Block to Blu-ray in a sharp 2.40:1 transfer that perfectly captures the film’s dark and gritty aesthete. Much of the action takes place under street lights and in the narrow alleyways and courtyards of the block, with an emphasis on deep blues and blacks, which the transfer handles very well. The Interiors are equally impressive, though, from the harsh industrial lighting of the complex hallways, to the homey warmth of the more naturally lit. Details in faces, fabrics, and textures pop in these interior scenes, and the colors are much more rich and vibrant. It’s a very solid transfer and is complimented by a booming 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio track that sports very aggressive bass (and I mean put-away-the-fine-china aggressive!), crystalline highs, and a smartly mixed surround track that truly encompasses the viewer with an all-out arsenal of directional effects.
Extras are abundant, and include a whopping three audio commentary tracks;
• Junior Commentary with Writer/Director Joe Cornish with John Boyega, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameh, Simon Howard and Leeon Jones
• Senior Commentary with Joe Cornish with Jodie Whittaker, Luke Treadaway and Nick Frost
• Executive Producer Commentary with Joe Cornish with Executive Producer Edgar Wright
Also included are the beefy behind-the-scenes featurette Behind the Block (HD); a look at the origin of the beasties in Creature Feature; a short bit introducing the film’s young stars called Meet the Gang (HD); Unfilmed Action, which offers some storyboard examples of scenes that didn’t make it to film, and more.
Attack the Block follows in the fine tradition of British filmmakers lovingly taking the piss out of a “serious” genre while, at the same time, showing said genre a tremendous amount of respect. Attack the Block is to alien invasion movies what Shaun of the Dead is to zombies, and Hot Fuzz is to macho action cinema; a film that tweaks the nose of a genre, but does so with lots of heart and an emphasis on craft, taking a tired premise and livening it up with hip characters, a unique setting, and an irresistible sense of humor that makes it must-see stuff. Highly recommended.