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DVD Tuesday: Attack the Block

From the producers of Shaun of the Dead, Attack the Block is a fast, funny, frightening action adventure movie that pits a teen street gang against an invasion of savage alien monsters. It turns a London housing project into a sci-fi battleground, the low-income apartment complex into a fortress under siege. And it turns a crazy mix of tough street kids into a team of kick ass heroes. It’s inner city versus outer space and it’s going to explode.

A high-concept, micro-pocketed mash note to John Carpenter and Walter Hill, this Cockney vs. Aliens saga generates an enormous amount of likability out of some very limited means. Executive produced by the folks behind Shaun of the Dead, writer-director Joe Cornish’s feature debut mixes gore and gags in a ratio that should drive genre fans bonkers. Unlike many recent Comic-Con-friendly movies, however, Attack the Block admirably concentrates on actually telling a story first, with the in-jokes and pop-culture references treated as tinsel. Kicking off with a literal bang, Cornish’s script follows a group of British teenage punks on the downward slide to outright thugdom. Once a horde of neon-toothed aliens starts falling from the sky, however, the kids find themselves appointed the unlikely protectors of their grotty South London housing complex. Cue the bottle rockets, dirt bikes, and ninja weapons. There’s not much to the story beyond that, really, but any narrative sparseness is leavened by some healthy doses of low-budget ingenuity, chief among them the design of the negative-image aliens themselves, which suggest ticked-off wild boars after a serious Rogaine overdose. On the character front, the film also scores, quickly sketching out its team of likable (but not cuddly) bad seeds with distinct personalities. (That said, American viewers should be prepared to have at least a quarter of the slang fly over their heads.) Clocking in at a just-right 88 minutes, Attack the Block may ultimately never rise above the level of clever homage, but there’s copious evidence that the filmmaker already has a firm understanding of what makes B movies tick. While his first film doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, check out all the neat stuff in the spokes.