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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Attack the Block
Attack the Block
Sony Pictures // R // October 25, 2011
List Price: $30.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted November 3, 2011 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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P R I N T
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The Movie:

Written and directed by Joe Cornish, 2011's Attack The Block begins in a rough part of London when a teenage thug named Moses (John Boyega) and his crew mug a nurse named Sam (Jodie Whittaker) who is on her way back to her apartment. Though Moses and his fellow gang members get her purse, in the middle of the altercation something comes hurtling out of the sky and lands on a nearby Volvo. Moses, curious to see what just happened, heads over to check it out and winds up being bitten by some sort of grey, lumpy looking alien. The alien makes a break for it and the boys give chase, eventually cornering it, at which point Moses kills it. Unsure what to do with their trophy the guys take it to a couple of pot dealers who also live in the same building they do, Ron (Nick Frost) and Hi-Hatz (Jumayn Hunter). See, Ron's got a pretty secure 'weed room' for his grow facility and they figure that'll be the best to stash this thing until they can figure out what to do with it.

Meanwhile, Sam has understandably reported the incident to the police, who pop her in a van and drive around town to look for the culprits. The kids are anxious to get back out on the street, especially Moses who has just been given a load of pot to sell by Hi-Hatz, and this time around they're accompanied by two little kids who call themselves Probs and Mayhem. The cops find the kids and chase them down and when Moses falls of his bike, they cuff him and toss him in the back of their vehicle. Around that time, some big black beasties with glow in the dark teeth show up - it seems that they're following Moses but why? When the beasties make short work of the cops, Moses and his crew have to team up with Sam to save themselves from the monsters, but complicating matters is Hi-Hatz, who thinks Moses is turning tail on him and moving in on his turf.

The first thing that you're going to notice when you put this one on is the slang that most of the young characters use in the movie, referring to one another as 'bruv' and 'blood' throughout and what not - it's distracting at first, even off putting . Once you get used to it, however, you start to get accustomed to it and just take it as the way that these characters talk to each other. This is part of the world they live in and part of the culture of the part of England where the film is set. As the film is primarily based around a group of teenagers it's definitely not at all out of the realm of possibility that should something like this happen they would speak the way they do here. Regardless, the characters are what make the movie here, Moses primarily. It's not particularly surprising to learn that he goes through a transformation here, from thug to hero - though how he goes through it and the events that thrust him into this spot are interesting and entertaining. The rest of the cast do well, with Nick Frost adding some welcome comedic value to pretty much every scene he's in, but John Boyega really is the star of the show here and he handles the material well.

The movie also benefits from some pretty interesting effects work and creature design. Earning its R-rating with some pretty intense sporadic violence and a moderate amount of gore, the monsters in the movie are pretty vicious and even actually frightening at times. They decision to make them creatures of almost pure blackness while still giving them an organic style of movement is interesting. At one point they're described as something to the effect of giant wolf dogs, and that's fairly accurate in so far as they do move in that way, but there's a viciousness brought to light by the glow in the dark teeth - sometimes all you can see of them - that makes them stand out in a good way.

Ultimately the movie winds up an interesting mix of Monster Squad style 'kids against evil' storytelling with a modern day twist, taking that premise and putting it in the projects and updating it for today's audience. For the most part it works really well, the end result is an entertaining and fun monster movie with just enough heart to matter.

The DVD:

The 2.40.1 anamorphic widescreen presentation is a good one, showing nice color reproduction (well, as nice as it can be given that much of the film takes place in the dark and inside some rather drab looking apartments) and good black levels. Some shimmer is apparent here and there but there's no print damage, dirt or debris and skin tones look good. There weren't any obvious problems with compression artifacts or edge enhancement to note and overall the image is detailed and quite solid.

Sound:

The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix on the disc is good, with some nice surround activity from all channels and decent bass response as well. Explosions offer a nice low end rumble in the mix while dialogue is clean and clear. Those who have trouble with the accents will appreciate the inclusion of subtitles in English, English SDH and French. An optional French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix is also included.

Extras:

Sony have gone all out with the extras on this release, starting with the first of three commentaries, rounding up writer/director Joe Cornish and actors John Boyega, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameh, Simon Howard, and Leeon Jones. The second commentary includes Cornish and actors Jodie Whittaker, Luke Treadaway, and Nick Frost. The third commentary includes Cornish and executive producer Edgar Wright. Each of the three tracks offers up a lot of information, and there's a sense of humor running throughout as well. You'd think that Cornish would run out of things to say given his involvement in all three commentaries but he doesn't, even if sometimes he does repeat himself. Obviously the first two tracks focus on the actors' point of view with the first letting the younger cast say their piece and the second giving the adult cast members their chance. The third is a bit more technical and offers a bit more insight into the business side of things.

From there, set aside the time to explore Behind The Block, a sixty-one minute long making of documentary that covers pretty much everything you'd want it to and then some. While the behind the scenes footage and cast and crew interviews are interesting enough, what really comes across here is just how much fun everyone seems to be having making this movie. You really get the sense that the cast members had a blast working together - but on top of that, you also get some great insight into some scene specific issues that came up while putting together different set pieces and what Cornish is like as a director. Complimenting this nicely is the twenty minute Creature Feature, which shows us what went into creating the alien creatures that we see throughout the movie. This was basically a mix of live action and CGI - not surprisingly, really, but interesting none the less. Some interviews with the techy guys who made all this happen and some behind the scenes clips round out this piece. The four minute Meet The Gang piece introduces us to the young actors who play the principal gang characters while the five minute Unfilmed Action segment shows storyboards for a couple of scenes that weren't shot for budgetary and scheduling issues. Mr. Cornish offers comments on why they were trimmed from the script and provides some context for them. Last but not least, there's a quick two minute segment called That's A Rap showing some of the cast members goofing off and trying to rap on set, two trailers for the feature, trailers for a few other Sony properties, animated menus and chapter stops.

Overall:

Attack The Block puts an interesting spin on the typical alien invasion film by placing some very unlikely characters in an even more unlikely situation and letting us watch to see how they're going to deal with it. It doesn't offer up the non-stop action that bigger budgeted Hollywood blockbusters do but it doesn't need to and instead the focus is more on Moses' transformation from hood to hero. This gives the movie a bit of heart and the nice mix of humor in with the fights and chases winds up making this one a pretty entertaining monster mash. Sony's DVD looks and sounds very good and is jammed with extras, most of which are actually worth checking out. Recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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