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Attack the Block (2011)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/25/2011

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/30/2011

When we think of British movies, we typically think of stuffy period pieces -- the Merchant-Ivory movies usually leap to mind. Or perhaps, we think of gritty, working-class movies which profile the tough lives of those who live in the slums of London, or perhaps the countryside of Wales. However, every once in a while, someone from England makes a quirky movie with lots of energy. Movies like Hardware, Shaun of the Dead, and Severance show that the Brits can make movies with energy, imagination, and no fear of being violent. Attack the Block hopes to follow in the footsteps of these films. Does it succeed?

Attack the Block is set in and around a housing block (apartment building) in London. As the film opens, a group of teenaged toughs -- Moses (John Boyega), Pest (Alex Esmail), Jerome (Leeon Jones), Dennis (Franz Drameh), and Biggz (Simon Howard) -- mug a woman, Sam (Jodie Whittaker). Following this, there is a bright light in the sky and the boys are attacked by a small creature, which Moses kills. They take it back to the block and show it to local drug dealer Hi-Hatz (Jumayn Hunter). Following this, there are more lights in the sky, and suddenly, hairy black creatures are everywhere, and they are very vicious. Once the boys are able to convince some of the other residents, including Sam, of the danger, a small war begins between the gang and the murderous aliens.

When movies like those listed above come along, they are usually riding a wave of hype by the time they reach the United States. I don't know if "wave of hype" accurately describes how Attack the Block was brought to the U.S., but it had received some good word of mouth and the Blu-ray Disc box proclaims "From the Producers of Shaun of the Dead", which is sure to get someone's attention. Hype may seem like a good thing, but it can also be a detriment to a movie, as it often gives it a lot to live up to.

Unfortunately for Attack the Block, it doesn't live up to the hype. Now, that may sound like a damnation, but it isn't (necessarily). The movie does have some good things going for it. The film's best asset is the design of the alien monsters, which are an interesting mix of the old and the new. Their shaggy black coats may look uninspired at first, but then you realize that, thanks to visual effects, their black color is an unrealistically dark black. Then, we see that their fangs glow in the dark, giving them a very unique and cool look. The movie doesn't waste any time in having the aliens appear and the pacing is pretty good. The young actors amongst the cast do a pretty good job, most notably John Boyega as Moses. Nick Frost appears in the film, enough to be noticed, but not so much that we feel like the movie is flaunting him.

However, when you get right down to it, there's nothing really special about Attack the Block. The apartment complex setting is somewhat interesting, but I felt that I'd seen it before. The issue here is that after a while, we realize that we are just watching the characters run up and down familiar looking hallways. The big draw in the movie is supposed to be the fact that it's about a gang fighting aliens. The problem here is that outside of Moses, the young thugs are all interchangeable and show no real personality. The action scenes are OK, and there are some surprising deaths, but Writer/Director Joe Cornish fails at creating any real sense of tension or suspense, again, mainly due to the fact that it's hard to care about these characters. And, thank God for subtitles, as the combination of British accents and street slang is nearly impenetrable.

So, the bottom line is that Attack the Block isnít a bad movie, it simply isnít the next big thing from the UK. It works as an action movie and, again, the aliens look cool, but youíll feel like youíve seen it before and it wonít get your pulse racing.

Attack the Block made me what to know if fireworks are legal in the UK on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc carries an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no distracting grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look good, most notably reds and the green glowing alien teeth. The image does get a little dark at times though. The level of detail is good, as we can see the textures on objects, and the actors are nicely separated from the background. The Disc offers a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.4 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The mix does a good job of showing off the alien sounds and the various noises in the action scenes. The stereo effects show good detail and nicely illustrate sounds moving across the screen. The real highlight here is when sounds go from the front speakers to the rear. The subwoofer effects are ample, but never overpower the other sounds.

The Attack the Block Blu-ray Disc contains a great many extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Director Joe Cornish and actors John Boyega, Alex Esmali, Franz Drameh, Simon Howard, and Leeon Jones. We then get a second COMMENTARY with Cornish and Jodie Whittaker, Luke Treadaway, and Nick Frost. "Behind the Block" (61 minutes) is a very in-depth making-of featurette which opens by looking at the casting, and then goes into a very detailed look at the production, showing how some of the key scenes were done. The piece also explores the stunts, the special effects, and the characters. "Creature Feature" (20 minutes) offers a very detailed look at how the alien monsters were both designed and brought to the screen, including the people in the suits and how visual effects were combined with live action photography. "Meet the Gang" (4 minute) gives brief intros to each of the primary cast members. "Unfilmed Action" (5 minutes) has Cornish talking about some of the scenes which had to be cut from the script. "That's a Rap" (2 minutes) shows various cast members breaking into song on the set. Finally, we get the UK and US trailers for the film.

Review Copyright 2011 by Mike Long