Film Review: Get Duked!
The Duke of Edinburgh Award is an actual thing, apparently. The satire in the Very British Get Duked! is effective enough it had me fooled. The film follows four teenagers (Rian Gordon, Lewis Gribben, Viraj Juneja and Samuel Bottomley) as they trek across the Scottish Highlands. It soon becomes obvious they're being hunted by an upper-crust type (Eddie Izzard) trying to exterminate those they see as "vermin." The film plays out like The Purge by way of Attack the Block mixed with Edgar Wright's best. The genre flick that ensues might be not capital-G Great, but it's a lot of fun.
Get Duked! has a raucous, infectious energy that never stops. Right from the opening music cue of Danny Brown's "Ain't It Funny," the film takes inspiration from hip hop to drive its aesthetic and narrative. Special effects and rapid-fire montages introduce many of the significant characters and our heroes film not one, but two music videos as part of the plot.
Director Ninian Doff made his name directing music videos for artists such as Run the Jewels and Migos. That experience means Get Duked! is a cohesive experience. It would have been too easy to make the differences between the teens and their aristocratic hunters more obvious through pop culture, but Doff deftly avoids that pitfall. Everything is filtered through a hip hop lens; even the ritualistic chant that is the Duke's leitmotif gets an Autotune filter late in the film.
The film has a rapid fire editing and wit that makes its influences well-known. Get Duked! wastes no time in setting up our characters and why they're on this expedition from hell; Dean (Gordon), Duncan (Gribben) and DJ Beatroot (Juneja) are here as a sort of last resort before being expelled after multiple exploding restroom stalls. Ian (Bottomley) is here because his mother thinks it will look good on college applications. Ian could not be further from the other three at the outset, but the very real danger brings them closer together.
The film does the same for the Duke and his wife (Georgie Glen) and a trio of Highland constables who all are too eager to brand the kids terrorists and too bad at their jobs to be of any help. Their characters aren't as well-written as the leading quartet, but they feel necessary nevertheless.
The script is fairly basic in overall structure and it occasionally gets on one's nerves, but it's clever enough to set up worthwhile payoffs for even the worst jokes. The one-liners and moment-to-moment editing are top-notch; a climactic sequence late in the film takes Doff's montage expertise and applies it to three wildly different situations, making each feel unique while maintaining the film's sense of time and space. However, the film wobbles on the landing, beating the audience over the head with its class allegory at the very end. Doff needn't have worried: he makes it very clear throughout the film whose side he's on in this battle between generations.
If I have a nitpick, it's that every hip hop needle drop came from American artists. Danny Brown, Vince Staples and Run the Jewels were by no means bad picks for the film and fit the aesthetics. However, it's odd for a film that wears its Britishness on its sleeve to completely ignore the thriving British hip hop scene. Get Duked!, a movie about giving the next generation a chance at something more than packing fish for 6.50 an hour, would've made an even more powerful statement by spotlighting UK artists in the film.
Final score: 8.3/10