On a given Saturday evening I was searching to watch something, when I came across this little entry on Amazon prime. The poster and the trailer looked fun enough, and since it is a fresh 2020 release, I was more than curious to check it out. The trailer had an Attack The Block feeling with a bit of Hard Target sprinkled in. Should be fun, I said. To make things more legit, a critic that I follow on Letterboxd gave this movie a rather positive review, so I was expecting to discover a hidden gem. You know, the movie that is really good, but it is too small for anybody to discover it since it went straight to VOD or streaming and has 0 big names in it or attached. The kind of movie one can be snobbish about that they know it and others do not. I was expecting that. What I got was probably a worthy candidate for the top 10 worst movies I saw in this decade.
This was a painful experience. The movie starts off with an old footage that explains what the Duke of Edinburgh award is, which under 2 minutes sets up the table for this whole ordeal. Basically, back in the 50’s, the Duke of Edinburgh feels that some of the youth of the nation (talking about the brits, mind you) are going down the wrong path, so he sets up this challenge that is supposed to straighten back up. So, in order to win the award, the designated kids must complete a 2 days worth of hike trough the Scottish highlands, demonstrating their skills in foraging, orienteering and team work, and if successful, they will be presented with a laminated certificate, but the big prize is in fact the sense of accomplishment and pride they will get by completing the course. Naturally, everybody in the footage is ear to ear smiling in that very distinct 50’s style. As soon as the footage is over, we cut from the smiling kids from the 50’s to 3 todays era, young teenage brit boys that are “going down the wrong path”, and they could have not be any more different from the footage kids. You got Dean, a basic hooligan, Duncan, your run of the mill dumb knucklehead, and DJ Beatroot, a wannabe rapper that so far has only bars about his dick. These three are a tight bunch, from a not stated but implied low income housing project, and they could not care less about school, or anything else for that matter. They are a day to day trouble for the school principle and they even managed to burn down a building out of sheer stupidity. Along comes Ian, a home schooled lad, that just really wants to do well academically and sees this Duke of Edinburgh award as a worthy addition to a college application CV. He is the straight man for the other 3 “funny men”, if we would apply proper comedy terms.
So the substitute guidance counselor drops these 4 kids off in the middle of the highlands, explains briefly on a huge paper map the course what the youngsters needs to follow for the next days, as well as the dangers they must avoid, like dangerous terrain, electric fences, shady villagers, auto highways. He even expresses his surprise that they allow teenagers to take this course by themselves, but there they are so here you go and he fucks off before any of the kids realize just how royally screwed they actually are. I mean, the initial 3 are totally useless and borderline mentally challenged, which makes their ignorance to and about anything so much worse. Now, apparently, some upper class folk have been using this whole award thing as an opportunity to cull the population from the undesirable elements, and with a very posh attitude, they are hunting down the clueless idiots. Also, a local police sergeant enters the mix, as she is dreaming of catching a big case, but all she does is making a huge fuss over nothing, all the while a notorious figure is stealing all the bread in the land. And a sequence of errors, misunderstandings, cluelessness and idiotics follow, delivering the “comedy”. I was really rooting that at the end of the film we will learn that by mistake North Korea has launched a nuke towards the Scottish highlands and all these fuckers will bite the dust. Unfortunately, North Korea did not exercise its movie critique muscle, which is a shame.
So, is there anything that is good about this movie? I suppose that the soundtrack can be enjoyable, as its is composed mainly by hip hop tracks that provide a nice contrast with the serene nature background, underlining how the urban elements (kids) are invading the surroundings. It also provides some needed energy to the proceedings, which is badly needed. And, on occasions, there are some clever video edits here and there, that do a great job showing when people are high (they don’t call the place the highlands for nothing) or at the beginning of the movie, when the kids and playing field is set up. But then again, writer/director Ninian Doff previous credits were all in the music video business, where these kind of solutions are employed on daily bases.
Other than that… I don’t know. Now I do know that movies are subjective and humor is more so, but I couldn’t find anything to be funny in this movie. Everybody is incompetent, ignorant and clueless which should lead to situational humor, but it is lowest common denominator material. And even that would be ok, if the movie would deliver the funny. But it doesn’t. It only delivers cringe. There was another movie released this year that had the same premise of transporting a group of people in the middle of nowhere just to be hunted down for being deplorable. It was The Hunt, and while was not set up as a comedy, barely was ok as a movie and entirely failed to delivery its purpose, it still managed to squeeze out more of the same premise than this edgy, British, todays version of City Slickers ever will. A must mention fact is that one of the upper class folk that are hunting kids is played by Eddie Izzard. He must have lost a bet to be in this or something, as he is utterly wasted on this. I do not even bother with the rest of the cast.
Honestly, you would be better off doing house chores than watching this load of garbage. I know that there will be some that will defend this movie, saying that the comedy is in the absurdity of it all. I respectfully reject that approach as I don’t find anything funny about the absurd, especially in these days when my daily dose of absurd is oversupplied by the news. Many filmmakers are struggling to make their films happen and fail, so it saddens me to see that resources that could have gone virtually any other project ended up consumed by something that will make the world a stupider place.