HULK REVIEW: “ATTACK THE BLOCK” A FLAT-OUT MASTERPIECE

April 27, 2011

HULK WANT TALK ABOUT MASTERPIECES FOR A MOMENT IF YOU NO MIND.

FOR PHRASE THROWN AROUND LOT, IT SOMETHING NOT AS WELL-DEFINED AS SHOULD BE. SURE, WHEN SOMEONE SAY MASTERPIECE WE UNDERSTAND THE IMPLICATION; IT MEAN “BEST OF THE BEST” OR “TIMELESS” OR SOMETHING OF EQUAL MEASURE. BUT WHAT WE NO CAN AGREE ON = WHAT IT TAKE FOR MOVIE TO GET SUCH RAREFIED STATUS.

IN INTEREST OF UNDERSTANDING, HULK GOING ATTEMPT DEFINE MASTERPIECE AS FOLLOWING: A FILM THAT SEEK TO ACCOMPLISH SOMETHING (OFTEN VERY SPECIFIC) AND IT EXECUTE THAT GOAL (OR SET OF GOALS) FLAWLESSLY THROUGHOUT.

OK, THAT STILL LEAVE LOTS OF GRAY AREA. HULK WANT ILLUSTRATE BETTER. FOR EXAMPLE, PEOPLE MIGHT ARGUE “WELL, MICHAEL BAY JUST HAVE GOAL OF ENTERTAINING YOU AND THROW COOL ACTION ON SCREEN. ARE THEY MASTERPIECES TOO?” NO. NOT AT ALL. IF YOU SAY THAT THEN YOU AN IDIOT WHO TOTALLY MISSING POINT.  THE GOAL CANNOT BE “MAKE YOU LAUGH A FEW TIMES” AND IT CAN NO BE “KEEP YOU OCCUPIED FOR 2 HOURS.” UNLIKE MICHAEL BAY MONSTROSITIES, AN AUDIENCE MEMBER CAN LOOK AT EVERY SCENE OF A MASTERPIECE AND SAY THIS SCENE DIRECTLY AIMING TOWARD ONE OF THE GOALS OF MOVIE AND THEN IT EXECUTE SAID GOAL BEAUTIFULLY.

IT CAN BE ANY GOAL REALLY: ESTABLISHING CHARACTER, MOTIVATION, PLOT, TONE, EVEN JUST PROVIDING A MOMENTARY THRILL (BUT OFTEN YOU NEED TO EXECUTE THAT OTHER STUFF TO GET PEOPLE TO CARE ABOUT THE THRILL). LOOK AT MOVIES WITH PERFECTLY TOLD PLOT ECONOMY, LIKE THE FRENCH CONNECTION OR ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN. LOOK AT CHARACTER PIECES LIKE CITIZEN KANE, WHICH PEEL BACK LAYERS TO SHOW THE COMPLETE PICTURE OF A TRAGIC HUMAN BEING. THEY CAN BE MASTERPIECES OF VISUAL AND LANDSCAPE STORYTELLING LIKE THE WORK OF TERENCE MALICK. OR LOOK AT TONAL MASTERPIECES LIKE 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, WHICH SHAPE A PICTURE OF HUMANITY IN THE COSMIC SCALE USING LARGELY SYMBOLIC MEANS. AND FOR SOME REASON, SOCIETY THINK MASTERPIECES CAN ONLY BE HIGH-BROW FARE. HULK CONSIDER SPIDER-MAN 2 JUST AS MUCH A MASTERPIECE AS ANY OF THOSE OTHER MOVIES. IT A FILM THAT BEST CAPTURE BOTH GOLDEN AGE SPIRIT OF COMICS, BUT ALSO THE THINGS COMICS ABOUT: HEROISM, DUTY, AND BALANCING LIFE AMIDST THOSE DIFFICULTIES. WE MAY TAKE THOSE CONCEPTS FOR GRANTED, BUT NO FILM DONE IT BETTER. AND THEN THERE ABSURD COMEDIES LIKE DUCK SOUP WHICH AIM AND SUCCEED IN PILING GAG AFTER GAG OF LAUGHS ON TOP OF ONE ANOTHER AT LUDICROUS PACE. THERE HORROR MOVIES LIKE HALLOWEEN AND LET THE RIGHT ONE IN WHICH DELIVER PERFECT FRAME AFTER FRAME OF QUIET, UNSETTLING ATMOSPHERE AND EVEN BETTER HORRIFIC CONCEPTS THAT KEEP AUDIENCE GOING LONG AFTER THE JUMP SCARES. ALL THESE MOVIES AIMING AT DIFFERENT THINGS, BUT ALL THESE MOVIES SUCCEED BRILLIANTLY. BETTER YET, THEY OFTEN TRANSCEND THE SHACKLES OF THEIR GENRE OR SIMPLE AIMS TO BECOME SOMETHING MORE. WE USE WORDS LIKE “CLASSICS” BUT WHAT WE REALLY SAYING IS THEY STRIKE DEEP INTO THE HEARTS OF THEIR AUDIENCE, NO MATTER HOW GENERAL OR SPECIFIC THAT AUDIENCE MAY BE.

IN OTHER WORDS, A MASTERPIECE HAS TO BE THE BEST POSSIBLE VERSION OF WHAT IT TRYING TO BE.

SO LET HULK GET DOWN TO IT: ATTACK THE BLOCK = A FUCKING MASTERPIECE.

THE POSTER PERHAPS NOT CONVEY THAT

*** NOTE: IF HULK HAD WORD LIMIT HULK WOULD TALK ABOUT ONE THING IN THIS FILM VERY SPECIFICALLY AND IT AT BOTTOM. AS MUCH AS HULK WANTED TO TALK ABOUT THIS ASPECT AND ONLY THIS ASPECT FOR WHAT MAKE THE FILM SO GREAT, IT REALLY MAKE MORE SENSE LOGICALLY TO END WITH IT… BUT STILL, THIS A LONG REVIEW AND HULK REALLY WANT YOU READ THE LAST PART MOST OF ALL. SO IF INTEREST WANING AT POINT IN THIS, SKIM TO BOTTOM TO WHERE YOU SEE THESE AGAIN *** THANKS – HULK.

BACK TO REVIEWING THE MASTERPIECE!

THE PLOT DESCRIPTION OF ATTACK THE BLOCK RATHER STRAIGHTFORWARD: FIVE URBAN YOUTHS FROM THE SOUTH LONDON PROJECTS DEFEND THEIR HOME WHEN ALIENS ATTACK FROM THE SKY. A FEW OF YOU MAY BE SHAKING YOUR HEADS. SERIOUSLY, HULK? YOU CALLING SOMETHING LIKE THAT A MASTERPIECE? YIKES.

FIRST OFF, YES.

SECOND OFF, HULK JUST SPEND GIANT PARAGRAPH EXPLAINING HOW ANY KIND OF FILM CAN BE MASTERPIECE SO YOU NOT REALLY LISTENING.

THIRD OFF, MOST EVERYONE ELSE HULK KNOW WHO SEEN IT HAD EXTREMELY POSITIVE REACTION TOO.

FOURTH OFF, IF IN VERY LEAST YOU JUST WANT A GOOD FUN/SCARY MOVIE THEN IT PLAY LIKE GANGBUSTERS.

FIFTH OFF, YOU SHOULD PROBABLY EMBRACE MORE GENRE STUFF. JUST SAYIN.

OKAY, BACK TO WHAT IMPORTANT. ATTACK THE BLOCK MAY BE TRYING TO SIMPLY MAKE EFFECTIVE “LOCALIZED INVASION” MOVIE, BUT IT DO SO ON A WHOLLY STUNNING LEVEL. FOR A SMALL BUDGET /SMALL LOCATION, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ABOUT THE PRODUCTION FEEL LIMITED. THE CAMERA WORK REEK OF EXPERT CARE. IT GIVE GREAT SENSE OF GEOGRAPHY AND SPACING. AND ANY TINY BIT OF STYLIZATION ONLY DONE FOR MAXIMUM EMOTIONAL IMPACT. THE EDITING? RAZOR SHARP AND FOCUSED. EVERY CHASE BREATHLESS. EVERY ATTACK PULSE POUNDING. EVERY QUIET MOMENT = TENSION-FILLED. HECK, EVERY JOKE BETTER TIMED THEN IT WRITTEN (A MAGNIFICENT COMPLIMENT). IT ONE OF THE FEW PULPY MOVIES THAT UNDERSTAND TENSION > GORE AND ACT ACCORDINGLY. BUT AT TIMES WHEN GORE CALLED FOR, THEY PUNCTUATE SO THE IMPACT DEEPLY FELT IN CHARACTERS. AND THE SOUNDTRACK, GOOD GOD, THE SOUNDTRACK… IT ABSOLUTELY PROPULSIVE. IT NOT JUST COMPLIMENT  TONE AND MOOD BUT CREATE THEM. IT HAVE THIS INESCAPABLE TEXTURE AND RHYTHM. IT ON THE LIST OF HANDFUL OF MOVIE SCORES THAT HULK WANTED TO FIND IMMEDIATELY AND BUY AFTER SEEING (OTHER RECENT EXAMPLES: ONCE, THE SOCIAL NETWORK).

NEEDLESS FOR HULK SAY, JOE CORNISH AND HIS TEAM TO BE COMMENDED FOR SOME TOP-FLIGHT FILMMAKING. HULK VERY EXCITED ABOUT THEIR FUTURE.

HULK EXPECTING SOME VERY GOOD MOVIES FROM THIS GUY

“TRUTH.

AND DESPITE THIS ALL-CONSUMING PROFESSIONALISM THERE ABSOLUTELY NOTHING HOMOGENIZED ABOUT ATTACK THE BLOCK. THESE ACTORS NEVER SEEN BEFORE. THEY, LIKE THE MOVIE, COMPLETELY EARNEST. IT ONLY HELP CEMENT WHAT FEEL DEEPLY ORIGINAL. CUE: THE GREAT LOOKING MONSTERS! THEY SOMETHING BETWEEN XENOMORPHS AND GORILLAS, ALL WITH WITH ONE DISTINCT, REOCCURRING VISUAL CUE THAT SO GOOD HULK NOT WANT TO SPOIL. LIKE THE MONSTERS, THE SETTING OF THE FILM VIBRANT AND FRESH, YET THERE NO INTEREST IN BEING MYOPIC. THE AUDIENCE GET UNDERSTAND THE WORLD OF THE FILM WITHIN MINUTES.

FUCK… THERE SO MANY GREAT ASPECTS TO THE FILM THAT HULK JUST GO ON LISTING. WHICH MAKE FOR KIND OF CRAPPY REVIEW SO HULK GOING TO STOP. IT ALL AMOUNT TO REALLY WELL-MADE FILM. SO LET’S TALK ABOUT THE STORY…

ACTUALLY, BEFORE DISCUSSING THE STORY, IT FIRST IMPORTANT TO TALK ABOUT BLACK CINEMA IN THIS COUNTRY… OR THE COMPLETE LACK THERE OF; FOR EVERY DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST OR DO THE RIGHT THING, THERE 1 AMISTAD, 15 SOUL FOODS, OR 37 TYLER PERRY MOVIES. THE MODERN BLACK FILMMAKING MOVEMENT HAD SO MUCH PROMISE IN EARLY 80S, BUT IT NEARLY AND COMPLETELY DISINTEGRATED. IT AMAZING TO HULK THAT SPIKE LEE GET SO MUCH CRAP WHEN HE SEEMINGLY THE ONLY ATTEMPTING TO PUT OUT CULTURALLY RELEVANT FILMS. THE TRUTH IS THAT AFRICAN-AMERICAN CINEMA (LIKE NEARLY ALL HOLLYWOODIZED CINEMAS) HAS BECOME A NAKEDLY PANDERING ECONOMIC ENTERPRISE. SEEMINGLY EVERY MOVIE INVOLVE OVERTLY SIMPLE FAMILY DRAMA WITH HAM-FISTED MESSAGES AND THIS WHOLE OVERT CHRISTIAN THING… LET BE PLAIN ABOUT THIS. THERE ONLY ONE GOAL TO THESE MOVIES AND IT TO GET AN ENTIRE AFRICAN-AMERICAN FAMILY IN THE THEATER TO WATCH IT. THIS NOT OVER STATING. HULK WORK ENOUGH YEARS IN MARKETING TO CONFIRM THIS NOT ONLY TRUE, BUT THE ONLY TRUTH OF “BLACK CINEMA.” HOLLYWOOD WILL NOT MAKE AFRICAN AMERICAN FILMS UNLESS THEY AIMED AT WHAT THEY CALL THE “AFTER-CHURCH FAMILIES.”

WHY NOT? BECAUSE THAT THEY ONLY THING THAT CAN MAKE ENOUGH MONEY AS A “BLACK ONLY” AUDIENCE. AND ALSO BECAUSE AFRICAN-AMERICAN FAMILIES GO TO THE FREAKING MOVIES TOO. THEY SEE GENRE STUFF. THEY SEE COMIC BOOK MOVIES AND HORROR MOVIES. HATE TO BREAK IT TO THE ASSUMPTIVE WHITE FOLK BUT THEY SEE THE KINGS SPEECH TOO. THEY SEE EVERYTHING WE SEE. WHY? BECAUSE THEY’RE FUCKING HUMAN BEINGS. SADLY, BECAUSE OF THIS OBVIOUS FACT, NO MARKETING EXEC WILLING TO TAKE A CHANCE ON HAVING RACIALLY DIVERSE CAST SO NO ONE ITCHING TO MAKE SOMETHING MAINSTREAM THAT COULD POSSIBLY BE PERCEIVED AS A “BLACK FILM” UNLESS IT STAR WILL SMITH (AND AGAIN, THIS DUE TO FACT THEY DIG THEMSELVES IN WHOLE BY MAKING PANDERING FILMS AIMED SQUARELY AT AFTER CHURCH AFRICAN-AMERICAN FAMILIES)… AFRICAN-AMERICAN CINEMA IN DIRE STRAIGHTS RIGHT NOW.

AND IT MAKE ATTACK THE BLOCK SO FUCKING REFRESHING.

LET PUT THIS IN PERSPECTIVE: 1) THIS FILM STAR FIVE, YOUNG BLACK LEADS. 2) IN A MOVIE THAT BEING MARKETED TO BLACK AND WHITE AUDIENCES ALIKE. 3) IT HAVE NO INTEREST IN HAM-FISTED “RACISM IS BAD!” MESSAGES WITH THAT PARTICULAR AFTER-SCHOOL SPECIAL CANDOR AND 4) IT FULLY EMBRACE THE CULTURAL URBAN IMPRINT, WHILE TRANSCENDING THAT IMPRINT ALL TOGETHER TO BECOME SOMETHING MORE.

WELL GOD DAMN IF THAT AIN’T A FUCKING MIRACLE. HELL, ONE OF ONLY OTHER MOVIE HULK CAN THING OF LIKE THAT = SPIKE LEE’S INSIDE MAN.

SPIKE LEE MADE EXECUTING A HEIST FILM WITH PESONALITY LOOK SO FUCKING EASY IT KEEP HULK UP AT NIGHT

SO YEAH, ATTACK THE BLOCK TAKE PLACE IN LONDON, BUT SUCKS TO THAT. THIS ALL ENCOMPASSING URBAN LIFE STUFF. IT COULD JUST AS EASILY BE ANY CITY IN THE USA. MORE TO THE POINT, EACH OF THESE YOUNG LEAD HAVE UNIQUE VOICE, PERSPECTIVE AND HUMOR. THEY ARE VIVID. THEY ARE REAL. AND THEY EXIST IN A WORLD FAMILIAR TO MANY OTHER CHARACTERS WE RECOGNIZE MORE EASILY: THE LILY WHITE DO-GOODER. THE STONER. THE WHITE RICH KID SLUMMING FOR DRUGS. ONLY JUST LIKE OUR LEADS, THESE MORE FAMILIAR CHARACTERS ALSO SHOWCASE A NICE LIVED-IN SHADE OF GRAY. AND SINCE THIS A MOVIE WE’RE TALKING ABOUT, THE CHARACTERS ALL LEARN TO EXIST AND SHARE BUT AT LEAST THEY HAVE THE DIGNITY TO DO SO IN A WELL-OBSERVED, ORGANIC WAY… THE KEY DIFFERENCE BEING THEY DO SO AMIDST SOME FUCKING INSANE ALIEN INVASION SHIT. BUT THIS NOT LIKE THAT SUBPLOT FROM VOLCANO WITH THE RACIST POLICE OFFICER (REMEMBER THAT? IT ALWAYS TAKES HULK’S PROVERBIAL CAKE AS THE “MOST SHOEHORNED RACISM PLOT IN AN OTHERWISE COMPLETELY FORGETTABLE SUMMER MOVIE”). NO FOLKS, THIS SO MUCH MORE DIGNIFIED. JOE CORNISH KNOWS HOW TO CONVEY THESE BITS OF CHARACTER STORY AND DEVELOPMENT IN BITE-SIZE ECONOMY… PERHAPS THE ONLY COMPLAINT HULK COULD RECOGNIZE = SOMEONE FEELING LIKE THIS DEVELOPMENT TOO BITE-SIZED. SURE IT NEVER, EVER BECOME DIDACTIC OR CLOYING, BUT IT CERTAINLY DIRECT WITH WHAT IT SAYING AT TIMES… BUT, KNOW WHAT? HULK RECOGNIZE WHY THAT SO. THIS AN ALIEN INVASION MOVIE AFTER ALL. LETTING THINGS PLAY OUT MORE WOULD ONLY TAKE THE AIR OUT OF THE TENSION. SO CORNISH KNOWS THE LITTLE MOMENTS AND EXCHANGES AMIDST THE CHASES AND MONSTERS AND MAYHEM WORK BEST (HE DOES COME FROM THE EDGAR WRIGHT SCHOOL).  AND WHAT MATTER IF THE BITE-SIZED STUFF COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY LEGIT? YUP…

… THIS IS AN ALIEN INVASION MOVIE BY WAY THE WIRE.

“BELIEVE.”

ALL THIS SECRETLY AMUSE HULK, KNOWING THAT SUPER 8 COMING OUT SOON, WHICH BY ALL ACCOUNTS SEEM TO BE AMBLIN-AIMED, E.T. MEETS GOONIES FARE. HULK HAVEN’T SEEN AND WHO KNOWS, THE FILM COULD BE QUITE GOOD… BUT ATTACK THE BLOCK SEEM LIKE EVERYTHING THAT SUPER 8 WANTS TO BE AND MUCH, MUCH MORE.

AT LEAST PEOPLE WILL SEE OUR MASSIVELY MARKETED MOVIE

***OKAY NOW FOR WHAT MOST SPECIAL OF ALL: ATTACK THE BLOCK DONE SOMETHING THAT HULK CAN NO REMEMBER A SINGLE OTHER FILM.

IT GOT MOSES RIGHT.

TO CLARIFY, HULK NOT TALKING ABOUT THE COMMANDMENT GUY, BUT INSTEAD THE LEAD CHARACTER OF ATTACK THE BLOCK AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, THE KIND OF CHARACTER HE IS AND WHY IT SO IMPORTANT.

HULK NOTICING THAT SOME FOLKS SORT NOT REALLY GETTING WHAT MAKE MOSES GREAT. THEY CERTAINLY GET THE FEELING AND UNDERCURRENT OF WHAT OCCUR (IT SO WONDERFULLY ENGAGING IT HARD NOT TO), BUT THE COLLECTIVE SUMMARY OF MOSES’ CHARACTER’S JOURNEY SEEM TO BE MORE OF A “HE TAKING RESPONSIBILITY NOW!” KIND OF THING… AND THAT TOTALLY FAIR BECAUSE HULK NOT ENTIRELY SURE IT OBVIOUS:

MOSES IS AND ALWAYS WAS THE KIND OF PERSON WHO WOULD RISK HIS LIFE FOR SOMEONE ELSE. AND IN REAL LIFE, THOSE KIND OF PEOPLE EXTREMELY COMPLICATED.

LET’S GET ONE THING STRAIGHT. MOST SCREENWRITERS HAVE A PRETTY SHITTY CONCEPT OF HOW HEROES WORK.

1) MOST OF THE TIMES THE AUDIENCE IS TREATED TO AN ENDLESSLY REGURGITATED JOSEPH CAMPBELL VERSION, WITH THE SAME PAINT BY NUMBERS ANSWERING THE CALL BULLSHIT WE SEE TIME AND TIME AGAIN. HULK TOO THOUGHT IT A NOBEL CONCEPT ONCE… IN 8TH GRADE.  ANYONE WHO CITES THAT STUFF AS GOOD STORYTELLING HAS TO TAKE SCREENWRITING 102 NOW. YES, IT A HANDY ARCHETYPE AND UNDERCURRENT OF ALL HEROES (EVEN MOSES), BUT SOLE DEPENDENCE ON IT FOR STORYTELLING WILL RENDER ANYTHING YOU TRYING TO DO COMPLETELY ROTE AND POINTLESS. STAY AWAY WRITERS. STAY AWAY.

2) MOST REAL LIFE HEROES ARE ALPHA PERSONALITIES. MOST SCREENWRITERS ARE BETA PERSONALITIES. A.K.A. PEOPLE WHO POSSIBLY SPENT THEIR FORMATIVE YEARS BEING TERRORIZED BY ALPHA PERSONALITIES.

TO COMBAT THIS OBVIOUS PROBLEM HEROES ARE WRITTEN BY BETA PERSONALITES IN SEVERAL WAYS:

A) THE BETA BECOMES THE PASSIVE HERO, WHO MEANT TO REFLECT DECENCY AND EVENTUALLY GET THE GIRL JUST BY BEING DECENT GUY! (HINT: THIS ACTUALLY NOT HOW IT WORKS AND SAID HERO WHO THINK THEY DECENT GUY NOT ACTUALLY A DECENT GUY. JUST UNDERDEVELOPED AND LIKELY WILL TURN INTO BITTER ASSHOLE ONCE THEY ENCOUNTER THE TERRIFYING EQUALITY OF ADULTHOOD). OH AND ALL THE WHILE THEY TERRORIZED BY IDIOTIC ALPHA PERSONALITY VILLAINS. THEY WILL LIKELY BE RICH OR FOOTBALL PLAYERS. HULK JUST DESCRIBED 99% OF 80S MOVIES. MOVING ON…

B) THE BETA IMAGINES A HERO NOT BASED ON HEROIC QUALITIES BUT INSTEAD JUST THE ANTITHESIS OF ALL THEIR WEAKNESSES. PERFECT EXAMPLE? JAMES BOND. THE IMPOSSIBLY SUAVE GUN-TOTING LADY-FUCKER EXTRAORDINAIRE WHO NEARLY NEED TO SLAP A GIRLS BUT TO SHOW HER WHAT’S WHAT… HULK KNOW LOTS ABOUT BOND. AND NEEDLESS TO SAY THERE PROBLEMS WITH THE CONCEPT.

C) IGNORE ALL THIS AND CREATE YOUR HERO CENTERED AROUND A LARGER SOCIAL CONCEPT. IT CAN BE ANYTHING FROM FEMALE EMPOWERMENT TO CIVIL RIGHTS TO WHATEVER. POPULAR IN COMICS, DISNEY FILMS, BLAXPLOITATION AND OTHER STUFF.

AND D) THE MUCH MORE INTERESTING AND SUCCESSFUL RECENT SOLUTION HAS BEEN THE ADVANCEMENT OF THE MODERN ANTI-HERO. AT BEST THEY REPRESENT THE HUMANE AND UN-PERFECT QUALITY OF THE SEMI-HEROIC FIGURE THE AUDIENCE INVESTS IN… AT WORST THEY REFLECT THE BETA WRITER’S OWN SHORTCOMINGS, BUT WITH BETTER LINES THEY WISH THEY SAID IN REAL LIFE AND A FORCED AUDIENCE TO ROOT FOR THEM… HULK PRETTY SURE WOODY ALLEN IS THE ONLY ONE WHO EVER DID THIS WELL (BTW, HULK KNOW A LOT ABOUT ALPHA AND BETA PERSONALITIES. WHY? CAUSE HULK THE FUCKING HULK. HE BEEN DEALING WITH THIS BANNER/BIG GREEN GUY SHIT FOR LIFE. SO HULK GOT IT DOWN).

BUT WOULDN’T YOU KNOW IT? THERE’S ACTUALLY THAT RARE ANSWER E)… ONE SO IMPOSSIBLY RARE HULK CAN ONLY ACCOUNT THE HANDFUL OF TIMES HULK SEEN IT.

THE ACTUAL, REAL HERO.

WHAT WOULD IT TAKE FOR YOU TO PICK UP A GUN, SWORD, WHATEVER THE HELL, AND RUN OUT IN FRONT TO DEFEND YOUR FRIENDS? TO LEGITIMATELY SACRIFICE YOURSELF.

… THINK ABOUT IT.

IT SOMETHING PEOPLE SEE TIME AND TIME AGAIN IN MOVIES AND YET IT SOMETHING WE NEVER REALLY QUESTION WITH OUR OWN LIVES. WHAT WOULD IT TAKE FOR YOU TO DEFEND YOUR FRIENDS? THE MOST OBVIOUS EXAMPLE IS THE MILITARY. GRANTED, THE MILITARY AND THE REASONS FOR JOINING OFTEN PAINTED IN ROSES. IN BRUTAL HONESTY, LOTS JOIN BECAUSE THEY WANT TO KILL STUFF, IT WAS FORCED ON THEM, OR MOST OFTEN THEY JUST NEED THE MONEY. BUT LOST IN THESE CYNICAL REASONS ARE THE THOUSANDS OF MEN AND WOMEN FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE WHO JOIN TO CONTRIBUTE TO SOMETHING BIGGER THAN THEMSELVES. IT’S HEADY, HONORABLE STUFF. SOMETHING THAT THE POSH, LIBERALLY MINDED WORLD OF HULK AND EVERYONE ELSE FORGET. SACRIFICE = REAL. BUT IF OFTEN TAKE A FLAWED, INTERESTING, AND DEEPLY WOUNDED KIND OF PERSONALITY TO GET TO THAT PLACE OF SACRIFICE. IT RARELY A WHOLLY NOBLE PURSUIT.

AND HULK HATE TO BREAK IT TO YOU, BUT YOU ALSO MEET A LOT OF THESE HEROIC PERSONALITIES IN INNER CITIES.

AND OFTEN THEY IN GANGS.

THIS ALL SOUND VERY COUNTER INTUITIVE HULK KNOW, BUT HEAR HULK OUT. THERE ARE INNER CITY ALPHA MALES BUILT UP AROUND POMP, CIRCUMSTANCE, AND POSTURE (THIS ALPHA MALE WELL REPRESENTED BY THE LEAD, BAD DRUG CHARACTER IN THE FILM). THE OTHER ALPHA MALE IS EQUALLY COMPLICATED. BUT THEIR PERCEIVED STRENGTH COMES NOT FROM FEAR, BUT SURVIVAL INSTINCT. THAT BECAUSE THIS KIND OF ALPHA MALE OFTEN BROKEN BY HOME LIFE. THEY ARE OFTEN ABUSED. AS SUCH, THEY WILL LIKELY BULLY OUTSIDERS. THEY WILL OFTEN GET INTO SELLING DRUGS. THEY DON’T HAVE THE SOCIAL TOOLS FOR EDUCATION AND SCHOOL. THEIR PAIN OFTEN BROUGHT ON THEMSELVES AS MUCH AS IT IS DEALT TO THEM. IT CYCLICAL.

BUT IN THAT NEED TO SURVIVE, THEY WILL BE WHOLLY TERRITORIAL. THEY WILL DEFEND THEIR FRIENDS TO THE DEATH. AND THEY WILL DO SO IN THE MOST HEROIC TERMS THAT TOTALLY INCONCEIVABLE TO YOU AND HULK. THEY WILL DEAL WITH ADULT CONCEPTS OF RESPONSIBILITY OFTEN BY AGE 8 OR 9. THEY TAKE THE WEAKER UNDER THEIR WING. THEY WILL POSSESS A STRENGTH AND A WILL SO BEYOND WHAT WE HAVE AS TO ONLY BE DESCRIBED AS SOLDIERLY; ONE THAT IS OFTEN UNCHECKED, UNREGULATED, AND UNCARED FOR AS TO RENDER THE VERY CONCEPT OF SUCH A PERSON TO BE TERRIFYING.

THEY ARE THE HEROIC ALPHA MALE, JUST NOT WHAT WE ENVISION. THEY ARE THE MOST EXTREME VERSION OF THE SAME PSYCHOLOGY THAT CAUSE SOMEONE TO JOIN THE FIRE DEPARTMENT OR THE ARMY… IT JUST IN THE HAZE OF TRUE, HORRIBLE PEOPLE THAT GET INVOLVED IN THE INNER CITY NIGHTMARE,  WE OFTEN HAVE HARD TIME SEEING THE GOOD PEOPLE WHO JUST DOING BAD THINGS.

WHY HULK KNOW ALL THIS SHIT? WHY HULK FEEL SO STRONGLY ABOUT IT? HULK’S FAMILY SPENT THEIR LIFE DEALING WITH IT. IT THE SUBJECT OF MAMA AND PAPA HULK’S LIFE WORK. HULK KNEW DOZENS OF MOSES’ (MOSII?). THEY IN EVERY CITY, ALMOST EVERY GROUP OF FRIENDS LIKE THIS. THEY NOT UNDESERVING OF OUR ATTENTION OR OUR COMPASSION. THEY OFTEN DO ALL KINDS OF WRONG, BUT THEIR PLIGHT FUCKING MATTERS. THEY MAY NOT GIVE A SINGLE SHIT ABOUT YOU, OR I, OR ANYONE WHO TRY TO HELP THEM. BUT THEY WILL MAKE A FAMILY IN THEIR MIND. AND THEY WILL PROTECT IT TO THE DAY THEY DAY. WHICH WILL LIKELY BE AT A VERY YOUNG AGE.

AND HULK SITTING HERE, RACKING BRAIN, TRYING TO THINK OF ANOTHER MOVIE THAT UNDERSTAND THE MOSES’ OF THE WORLD (THERE PROBABLY ONE. IN TELEVISION THERE THE CHARACTER OF MICHAEL FROM THE WIRE… THAT ALL HULK GOT). AND WHY THEY MATTER MORE THAN ANYTHING TO PEOPLE OF THE COMMUNITY. HULK LOOK BACK AT ATTACK THE BLOCK AND IT BRINGS TEARS TO HULK’S EYES. TRULY. IT SOUND IMPOSSIBLY DUMB, BUT HULK SWEAR. IT NOT DUMB. THE MOVIE AND CHARACTER OF MOSES COMPLETELY UNDERSTAND THE WORLD AND PSYCHOLOGY THEY TALKING ABOUT. JOE CORNISH BRILLIANTLY USE THE OUTWARD ALIEN THREAT THEY EXPLORE THE HEART AND STRANGE HEROISM OF THESE CONCEPTS. AND THE YOUNG ACTOR, JOHN BOYEGA SO TOTALLY BRING HIM TO LIFE. HE HAVE THIS AMAZING STOIC SCREEN PRESENCE THAT JUST GRAB YOU.

SO WHY THE STRANGE TITLE ATTACK THE BLOCK? BECAUSE THIS A FILM ABOUT TERRITORY. AND TERRITORY BEST MEANS “HOME” AND “COMMUNITY” IN THIS CASE; BEST EXPLORED THROUGH THAT SINGLE, AMAZING CHARACTER.

HULK SIMPLY CANNOT BELIEVE SOMEONE MADE A MOVIE ABOUT MOSES.

YOU HEAR THAT JOE CORNISH?

THAT’S FOR YOU.

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26 Responses to “HULK REVIEW: “ATTACK THE BLOCK” A FLAT-OUT MASTERPIECE”

  1. scott r said

    When I think of that flawed, alpha-male hero, I think Max from The Road Warrior. He’s a brutal, often selfish loner who eventually steps up to protect his adopted family. He needs them as much, if not more, than they need him. And talk about a masterpiece.

  2. Phil said

    First off, Hulk, it warms my heart on this Wednesday morning to see that someone else loves ‘Inside Man.’ It might be heretical to say it’s my favorite of Spike’s movies, but, well, there you go. You want to talk about a movie being the best possible version of what it’s trying to be, let’s talk about ‘Inside Man.’

    Well, not here, because you’re talking about ‘Attack the Block’ here (about which I probably would’ve heard nothing without you, so disconnected am I from movie that don’t star members or associates of the Avengers or the Justice League), so let’s table Spike for now. As I was reading, I couldn’t help but think of a theory I’ve been developing for years that I call “committing to the joke.” Basically, it states that if you’re going to do something as a creative person, you might as well go all the way with it and try to make a real statement, rather than pull back in the last couple of minutes, in the interest of trying not to piss anybody off by actually transmitting an opinion. It’s why post-’The Cable Guy’ Ben Stiller movies suck, it’s why I don’t think RDJ deserved a nomination for ‘Tropic Thunder,’ it’s why ‘Kick-Ass,’ ‘Shaun of the Dead’ and ‘They Live’ are spectacularly successful films. Of course, being a well-made film helps a lot. It’s kind of like an “If-then” thing. I should stop now.

    Sounds to me like ‘Attack the Block’ committed to the joke, and then some. AND Nick Frost is in it. Count me in, whenever the hell it comes to Colorado.

    • not eb said

      RDJ committed to the joke. The movie may have stopped him short, but he went all for it. He deserved the nomination.

  3. MMorse said

    What I enjoy most about your reviews lies in the thoughtful way you hone in on something like Moses’ heroism and connect it to larger observations/opinions about life in general. It gives your work real passion and a POV that feels unique. Great job.

  4. mgss said

    HULK THANK GRACIOUSLY.

    HULK NOT ALL THAT HAPPY WITH THE REVIEW IN ALL HONESTLY, BECAUSE IT STILL FEEL LIKE LOTS ROUGH EDGES. HULK WOULD NORMALLY TAKE TWO MORE PASSES, BUT HULK GONNA BE BUSY AS CRAP NEXT 2 WEEKS AND HULK WANTED IT DONE, SO THEMS THE BREAKS HULK GUESS.

    REALLY HULK JUST WANTED TO POINT OUT THAT HULK LOVED THE MOVIE AS EXPERIENCE, BUT MOST OF ALL, HULK REALLY NO CAN GET OVER FACT THERE MOVIE OUT THERE THAT NOT ONLY GET MOSES CHARACTER BUT OUTRIGHT CELEBRATE WHAT THEY DO, HULK MEAN, THE GALL OF THAT ENDING. WOW.

  5. prairie_oysters said

    Dear Hulk,

    Please follow me on twitter so that I may then DM (Direct Message) you.

    Yours,

    prairie_oysters

    PS: you’ll see why I ask if you do *big wink*

  6. [...] In fact, some of the resources I trust most have been positively glowing about it. I dare you to read this review from Film Crit Hulk! and not get excited about the film. The UK release date is this week, and Sony Pictures has bought [...]

  7. [...] the past few paragraphs arguing against the idea that this is a failed anti-hero movie, but as Drunk Hulk’s review makes clear, there’s an altogether different sort of heroism to this character: WHAT WOULD IT [...]

  8. [...] ATTACK THE BLOCK A FILM THAT SIMPLY WORK MUCH, MUCH, MUCH BETTER ON ALL LEVELS.  HULK ALREADY GONE INTO DEEPLY THE AMAZING THEMATICS THAT RESONATED WITH HULK, BUT MORE SPECIFICALLY IT A FILM THAT SEEMLESSLY INTEGRATE THE ALIEN PLOTLINE SEEMLESSLY INTO THE [...]

  9. VyceVictus said

    Hulk smashes with knowledge. Thoroughly enjoyed this movie and your review. This film really resonates with me because I grew up in a similar environment in NY. All the reviews ive read elsewhere touched upon the importance of featuring these inner city black youths as the protagonists and how they’re portrayed, but the experience of your family and your secret identity day job really brings poigniancy to these themes that no other critic has been able to convey. Thanks for that.

    As a now career service member (8 years and counting) growing up this way, I too have observed that key descriptor in the young leaders of crews in the hood which rings true in this film: Soldierly. With what I know now, I look back to all the ruffians and gangsters that I all at once befriended and avoided and realize just how many of them would have been excellent Sergeants, platoon leaders and commanders.

    If even a few people come away with giving second thought to all the decent kids who they would normally dismuss as hoodlums, it makes this film that much more important. Not just as proof of a the viable marketability of a well told small scale film wih blockbuster potential, but as a spark to engage in real substantial discussion about racial and social issues. Or at the very least, the prospect of John Boyega as the next great black action hero.

    • FILMCRITHULK said

      FIRST OFF, HULK THANK YOU DEEPLY FOR YOUR SERVICE.

      HULK INCREDIBLY HAPPY THAT THE THEMES RESONATED SO POIGNANTLY WITH YOU AND THAT YOU TOO IDENTIFIED THE “SOLDIERLY”/ALPHA MALE CONCEPTS AT THE HEART OF THE FILM. THE KINDS OF CHARACTERS/IDEAS IN THIS FILM EXPLORES ARE SO DEEPLY UNCOMMON, ESPECIALLY IN “POPULAR CINEMA,” THAT IT IS ALMOST A SMALL WONDER THAT SOMEONE HAD THE FORETHOUGHT TO ENGAGE THEM. IT NOT LIKE THIS IS SOME PROJECTION ON YOURS AND HULK’S PART EITHER, AS HULK HAS RECENTLY GOTTEN IN CORRESPONDENCE WITH SEVERAL OF THE KEY FIGURES INVOLVED WITH THE PRODUCTION AND THESE SORTS OF THEMES WERE VERY MUCH WHAT THEY WERE TRYING TO EXPRESS.

      AS YOU SAY, THE PROBLEMS WITH DISMISSING KIDS AS HOODLUMS IS JUST SO BACKWARDS. THEY’RE JUST REGULAR KIDS ONLY THEY’RE DEALING WITH A WORLD WITH MUCH HIGHER STAKES.

      AND GOOD NEWS FOR JOHN BOYEGA, SPIKE LEE SAW THE FILM / LOVED IT AND THEN CAST BOYEGA IN HIS UPCOMING BOXING SERIES http://www.movieweb.com/news/john-boyega-joins-spike-lees-da-brick HULK CAN’T WAIT!

      HULK THANK YOU AGAIN FOR YOUR WONDERFUL INSIGHT AND COMMENT.

    • This reminds me of a conversation I had a while back with a friend about how much better off at least one branch of the military would have been if Omar Little had enlisted.

  10. T. said

    Hulk,

    I have been eagerly trying to get my hands on a copy of Attack the Block just because of how fondly you speak of it in other reviews (I just actually read the review today). It was everything you said and so much more – it was so FANTASTIC! Thank you for bringing this gem to everyone’s attention. I was riveted from start to finish and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. The cast translates so much – these unknown youngsters are so charismatic. I admire the care taken to transform our opinions and feelings about these characters. Starting out, you carry the same superficial impression anyone would have about problem youth, but this cast (combined with the writing) are such good performers you are loath to lose any one of them during the course of the movie. I understand completely why you cannot praise it enough – more films like this need to be made!

    • FILMCRITHULK said

      HULK SO GLAD YOU ENJOYED. THE FILM REALLY HAS SOMETHING TO SAY NOT IN BETWEEN ALL THE ALIEN SLICING BUT DURING IT TOO! HULK THANK FOR YOU COMMENT. CHEERS!

  11. bumperpflug said

    Hi, Hulk!

    I’ve only just discovered your blog and I’m loving it. In the interest of discussion, though, what would you say to the nameless Man of The Road as an example of the hero archetype you’re talking about? His willingness to live to protect the Boy is pretty clearly demonstrated as the one thing allowing him to keep a sense of identity, and there’s never any suggestion of a lie-down-and-die-or-become-a-cannibal moment of weakness (in fact, I think the movie puts a finer point on this than the book by greatly expanding the role of his late wife). Maybe you’re talking about something more (haven’t seen AtB yet; will do so post haste) but it looks like it fits at first blush.

    Cheers!

    Bumperpflug

  12. Hulk, you fucking beautiful son of a bitch. You mentioned this movie when you were taking about Super 8, and I never had heard of it at that point. I rented it and it was a goddamned masterpiece. Thank you.

  13. [...] enough to stumble across the movie Attack the Block the other day while reading blog posts by Film Crit Hulk. You may have missed this film, as I did, when it was first released. Not only was it given only a [...]

  14. marbled said

    I just watched this last night, and was very impressed. There’s a huge debate in the UK about the media’s portrayal of youths (indeed, we’ve been criticised at the UN for how badly we regard young people in our country), and I really didn’t expect to see such a deft portrayal in a “genre” film. I agree with everything you said, but just wanted to suggest two points that I feel are as important to the film as what you’ve already raised:

    1. You say that “THIS ALL ENCOMPASSING URBAN LIFE STUFF. IT COULD JUST AS EASILY BE ANY CITY IN THE USA.” I realise you were mostly referring to the mentality of the teens here, but part of what makes this film resonate with me is that it’s absolutely defined by its “London-ness” – by which I mean that as a Londoner myself (albeit one who moved in from another part of the UK a couple of years ago, I’m not claiming to have any experience of growing up in that culture) it resonated as being true in a way that most films set in London ignore (I can’t remember the last time I saw a film in London that didn’t feature Big Ben, the Thames etc, but I lived in London for about 5 months before I even went to the Thames). I’ve looked round flats in blocks that could have been used to shoot this film, and I walk home past a group of teens who could have been used as extras (though to be fair they’ve never mugged me!)

    It’s also worth noting that translating the film to the US could be a challenge as the culture of violence is very different – ours is smaller, and guns are far harder to get hold of (reflected by the power of the drug dealer with two pistols).

    2. You rightly praise the character of Moses but I feel that the character of Sam is arguably as important. It’s through her that we get the first, automatic impression of the gang as nothing more than “fucking animals”, and it’s largely through her interactions with them that they become humanised. The scene in Moses’ flat is devastating because we share her shock at the revelation. If we didn’t believe the character’s choices to stay with the gang throughout the movie, the whole thing would fall apart, and both Joe Cornish’s writing and Jodie Whittaker’s acting are fantastic.

  15. Love it . I have been looking for something like this . Good info I will check back for more info about the 3 Day Diet.

  16. Mikko said

    Well well, you seem to have ridiculously good (subjective) and similar tastes as I do. You should do a latent review of Let The Right One In and smash your keyboard until I’m in agreement.

    I also thought ATB was an amazing movie and just full of delivery all around, I don’t think there was one useless scene and it definitely invokes that Edgar Wright way to handle shots and editing. Will be fun to see the third movie of the Cornetto trilogy and how it possibly stands up to ATB seeing as they seem to share a bit similar subject matter of an alien invasion.

  17. It’s always fun to come across one of your reviews months after you wrote it (and in this case for me, months after I saw the movie) to find how true it still is.

    I’m British (and a Londoner), but I merely liked “Attack the Block” rather than loving it as you did. Your review made me think about the reasons why. I think the main one is familiarity. In Britain, films like Attack the Block (minus the aliens) are not entirely unusual – there’s been a small but consistently successful industry making ‘urban films’, with casts of mostly black young people living tough lives in inner cities, for the past several years. Before “Attack the Block”, the best known and most successful was probably Noel Clarke’s “Kidulthood” (2006). By 2011, they’d become enough of a cliché that someone made a spoof version, “Anuvahood”.

    What I only realised on reading this is that America doesn’t really have that scene, not anymore, despite the revolutionary work of Spike Lee in the late 80s/early 90s and the wave of ‘hood films’ that followed. Yes, there’s still a commercially thriving African-American cinema, but as you say it’s almost all heartwarming family comedies, usually with Christian themes. This despite the fact that America has a considerably larger black population than Britain (both in numbers and percentages).

    It’s interesting to think about the reasons for that difference, and why they might be, but there’s not enough space to really explore them in this comment. Suffice to say, I don’t think the differences wholly favour the UK. I think part of the reason films like “Attack the Block” are successful enough to get made here is because we have a large number of alienated young people who find their heroes more sympathetic than the well-off adults who star in most other films, even when those young people don’t live in such poor neighbourhoods themselves. And there are a lot of them – see the youth riots in many English cities in summer 2011, just a few months after you wrote this. It seems to me that these days, the biggest social division in this country (and perhaps most countries in Europe) is youth vs age, whereas in America the main social divisions are race and class.

    Whereas perhaps the reasons such films don’t get made in America are fears of perceived racism (studios fear that a film which depicts African Americans living crappy lives will be accused of racism, as 2009′s “Precious” indeed was) and *actual* racism (white filmgoers aren’t willing to consider black gang members as potential heroes).

    This could develop into a whole thesis so I’ll leave it here, but the short version is that “Attack the Block” made a bigger impact on you than it did on me because you found it much more refreshing and original, and that speaks volumes about the differences in our societies and cinema.

    (But maybe also I just found it harder to get past the low budget effects. :) )

    • FILMCRITHULK said

      IT IS INDEED VERY DIFFERENT OVER HERE. HULK WOULD EVEN ARGUE THAT CLASS HAS A MUCH BIGGER ROLE IN THE U.K. DISCUSSION THAN IT DOES OVER HERE.

      BUT HULK WOULD ALSO ADD THE CAVEAT THAT IT WASN’T JUST THE REFRESHING NATURE OF THE SUBJECT MATTER, BUT INDEED A MOVIE THAT REALLY HAD A GREAT SENSE OF CRAFT AND BALANCE. IT KNEW HOW TO MAKE A WHOLE LOT OF MOVIES AT ONCE IF THAT MAKES SENSE. AND QUITE HONESTLY, HULK THOUGHT THE EFFECTS WERE QUITE GOOD :)

      CHEERS AND THANKS FOR THE LOVELY, THOUGHTFUL COMMENT!

  18. Gladys said

    Its been ages since you wrote this review but I recently saw ATB and came here to read your opinion. I was not disappointed! My question: do you have other links or articles or pointers to essays about black cinema and the “after-church” phenomenon you point out?

    • FILMCRITHULK said

      SORRY NO LINKS, IT’S JUST KNOWLEDGE BASED ON INTERNAL B.O. SOURCING!

      CHEERS AND HULK THANK FOR THE KIND WORDS!

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