Get Duked! may be the best British delinquent youth comedy, hyper-violent and hip-hop-inspired action adventure, and painfully relevant satire about class struggle I’ve seen since Attack the Block. Fans of Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish’s witty genre mix-ups should find a lot to love in writer/director Ninian Doff’s feature debut: About a quartet of working class high school seniors sent on a trek through the Scottish highlands before finding themselves smack dab in the middle of a The Most Dangerous Game kind of situation, it packs murderous royals in Purge cosplay, hashish/CD bombs, raver farmers who live to trip balls, a sinister bread thief and a hilariously gory sheep death (the best this side of Bad Taste) into its barely 90-minute runtime. It’s one of the freshest and funniest movies of the year.
As we witness in the ’80s-ish instructional video that opens the film, a wilderness trip supported by an award from The Duke of Edinburgh is apparently the perfect way to take the “aimless” urban youth out of a life of crime and give them something productive to do (i.e. dump them in the middle of nowhere without any discernible survival skills and force them to fend for themselves). The new victims—er, candidates—for this program consist of three outcast teens: Dean (Rian Gordon), the comparatively levelheaded one, whose fate as a meat packer is sealed before he even graduates high school; Duncan, the genius, who got in trouble for trying to light his shit on fire as part of a bizarre science experiment; and DJ Beatroot (Viraj Juneja), “the future of hip-hop” who’s so protective of his image that he wears all white for a trip that will be dominated by dirt. Ian (Samuel Bottomley), a goody two-shoes product of a Church of England homeschooling nightmare, joins the trio with a bizarre motivation: He wants desperately to go on the wilderness trip but he can’t do it by himself, so he has to tag along. Sure, he could go with his friends. That is, if he had any.
Doff introduces his protagonists via a series of rapid smash cuts offering up split-second information on each character. Edgar Wright’s perfected the act of getting through vital exposition as quickly as possible—see the Cornetto Trilogy—and Doff proudly carries the mantle. By the film’s midpoint, even a backstory that’s complex enough to warrant its own feature downloads into the audience’s minds in less than ten seconds of screen time. (Now that’s some efficient filmmaking.) As if making their way through the highlands by themselves wasn’t dangerous enough—made all the more tricky after Dean rips the middle from their map to roll a joint—the kids eventually figure out they’re being hunted by two posh psychopaths (Eddie Izzard and Georgie Glen) wearing creepy bunny masks. The local police (Kate Dickie and Kevin Guthrie), so underworked and inexperienced that a bread thief serves as their Public Enemy #1, get on the case, until some genius comedy of errors convinces them they’re in the middle of a full-blown zombie infestation. But have no fear kids, the brave Scottish farmers, led gruffest of the gruff character actor James Cosmo, might come to the rescue, if they can only take a break from getting shitfaced with hash-infused rabbit poop.
Doff can balance slapstick anarchy, deliciously pushing the limits of good taste, and dry humor to gives birth to many instantly quotable lines—“I’ve never seen murder; I’m home schooled” being my favorite. The cast’s chemistry not only carries the film’s pacing, but strengthens the script’s youthful passion, celebrating the fact that, no matter how many temper tantrums the old fogies throw, the future belongs to them. Wacky, smart, engaging and exciting, Get Duked! represents the next step in the Wright/Cornish school of 21st Century British comedy.
Director: Ninian Doff
Writer: Ninian Doff
Starring: Rian Gordon, Lewis Gribben, Viraj Juneja, Samuel Bottomley, Jonathan Aris, Eddie Izzard, Georgie Glen, Kate Dickie, Kevin Guthrie, James Cosmo
Release Date: August 28, 2020 (Amazon Prime)