Following this summer’s riots, the notion of making a gang of teenage muggers the heroes of your film looks an even riskier strategy than it did when Joe Cornish, one half of comedy duo Adam and Joe, first came up with the wheeze.
Yet Attack the Block, his boisterous sci-fi horror comedy about a gang of hoodies repelling an alien invasion from their south London council estate, remains enormous fun. Remarkably, as the youngsters fight off the extraterrestrials (malevolent balls of black fur and day-glo fangs), Cornish even succeeds in winning your sympathy for the teens – although, post-riots, you may now feel less disposed to hug them.
Cornish succeeds because of the cleverness with which he’s put his debut film together. Inspired by his love of 1980s monsters movies and gang films, he’s created a creature-feature gem that mixes laughs, thrills and scares, and zips along faster than a BMX-riding hoodie scarpering from the feds.
The grown-ups who get caught in the fray, Nick Frost’s addled dope dealer, Luke Treadaway’s posh stoner and Jodie Whittake’s trainee nurse, are all great, but the film belongs to the young leads, headed by rising star John Boyega as cocky 15-year-old gang leader Moses. Their performances may be rough and ready in places, but what they lack in acting polish they more than make up in authenticity – as their often impenetrable slang testifies.
Society at large may write off these young kids as monsters but we shouldn’t, is the message Cornish smuggles into his film amid the mayhem and mirth.
Released on DVD & Blu-ray on 19th September by Paramount Home Entertainment.