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Attack the Block

It’s that time again: time to go against the grain. Resting at a comfortable 89% on Rotten Tomatoes as of the time of this writing, Attack the Block seems to be a critical darling, praised for its irreverence, wit and constant sci-fi thrills. To call those critics wrong is not something I’m willing to do (after all, movies can be interpreted and experienced in many different ways); perhaps I simply saw a different movie. As a couple colleagues of mine joked, there must be a non-suck version and that version must have eluded me.

Attack the Block comes from Britain and takes place in a small area of South London. An unruly gang of hoodlums are marching the streets and robbing those who venture into their neighborhood. After terrorizing one innocent pedestrian, an alien crash lands on their block. The boys kill it and think it’s over, but more are on their way. Considering the block their territory, they decide to defend it and take to the streets to exterminate as many creatures as they can.

A lot goes wrong in a lot of movies, but most problems can be overcome with strong characters. Unfortunately, Attack the Block hasn’t one, human or otherwise. The members of the gang, who I’ve neglected to name because, frankly, it doesn’t matter, are carbon copies of each other, lacking in distinct personalities. If not for their differing clothes, you’d be hard pressed to tell them apart. They all act the same, as members of gangs often do, and until the very end, none have real motivations for doing what they do; they just do because, well, the movie wouldn’t have been much of a movie if they hadn’t.

The script overlooks (or simply neglects) giving them separate personalities, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise because these characters don’t even act like real people. They’re missing the most basic of human behaviors, never properly or realistically reacting to the fact that they just found and killed an alien. As far as the audience can tell, this is a natural occurrence for them. Amazement and curiosity are nowhere to be found.

Even if they had been fleshed out, however, the simple fact remains that the characters are delinquents, a bane on society and the epitome of what’s wrong with much of the world. They’re so unlikable and devoid of most redeeming qualities, you quickly begin rooting for the aliens to take them out. But then you realize the aliens are just as uninteresting. Sporting one of the most bland and unimaginative creature designs in recent memory, the aliens in Attack the Block are essentially shadows with blue teeth. It’s one thing to keep your monsters deliberately hidden, but these are in plain sight, yet you can't really see them. It’s a lazy effort, a design that required little to no creativity.

Of course, this is a low budget film, which I’m sure explains why they look the way they do, but that’s hardly an excuse these days. Look at last year’s Monsters, for instance, which was made on a shoestring budget of, according to Box Office Mojo, only $500,000. The aliens in that film had a unique look (though they were, admittedly, shown much less), but what really stands the two films apart is that Monsters had real characters and emotional depth. Attack the Block is shallow and stupid. Its jump scares are cliché and predictable (if a character is looking through a peephole, crack, window, etc., you can be sure something’s going to pop up) and the direction, while not terrible, is noticeably amateurish; first time film director Joe Cornish leaves little or no headroom for his actors, a distracting oversight. Attack the Block is no doubt reveling in the praise its getting, but that praise is beyond me.

Attack the Block receives 1.5/5

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