Director: Ninian Doff
Cast: Samuel Bottomley, Rian Gordon, Lewis Gribben, Viraj Juneja, Kate Dickie, Kevin Guthrie, Alice Lowe, James Cosmo, Eddie Izzard
Watch Get Duked! online in the UK: Amazon Prime
If the premise of Get Duked! sounds familiar, that’s because it was previously known as Boyz in the Wood, back in 2019, when it opened the Edinburgh Film Festival and won an audience award at SXSW. Belatedly arriving on Amazon Prime Video, it’s a gleefully silly horror comedy that marks an impressive debut for writer-director Ninian Doff and its quartet of young stars.
Opening with a mock 1980s video about the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, the film swiftly introduces us to Dean (Rian Gordon), Duncan (Lewis Gribben) and DJ Beatroot (Viraj Juneja), three idiot teenagers who are being punished with an orienteering trip to the Scottish Highlands after blowing up a school toilet.
Joining forces with sensible, home-schooled nerd Ian (Samuel Bottomley) – who’s there by choice – the boys attempt to make their way back to their teacher (Jonathan Aris), but things quickly take a dark turn when they’re shot at by a pair of shotgun wielding toffs (Eddie Izzard and Georgia Glen) wearing masks.
Doff’s direction is immediately impressive, thanks to a bracingly efficient, partly animated credits sequence that quickly introduces the three main characters and ends with them on the bus to the Highlands. The film is packed with similar, Guy Ritchie-style flourishes, whether it’s a hilarious homemade hip-hop video or a series of bizarre hallucinogenic effects, thanks to some magic mushroom infused rabbit droppings.
On top of that, Doff has a terrific sense of comic timing and gag mechanics. As a result, gags come thick and fast, from all directions and in all forms, whether it’s rat-a-tat comic dialogue, visual gags, inspired running jokes or just general idiocy. In particular, Doff knows how to set up and deliver a surprise gag and there are some delightful ones here.
Doff’s impeccable timing is matched by the irresistible comic chemistry of his young cast. Of the four, Viraj Juneja is the stand-out, not least because he gets the funniest material (worrying about his DJ name, doing a rap about his private parts, that sort of thing), but there’s equally strong work from Gribben (the dopiest of the four), while Gordon and Bottomley are very likeable as the de facto leads.
In addition, there’s strong support from the likes of Kate Dickie (as a Highlands police officer convinced she’s uncovered a gang of paedophile terrorist hoodies), Kevin Guthrie (as her not too bright fellow officer), Alice Lowe (in a very funny cameo as a police commissioner) and the always-reliable James Cosmo as a helpful farmer. As for Izzard and Glen, their performances are entirely caricatured, but no less funny for being so.
The film is much more concerned with being funny than it is with being scary, so the horror elements are limited to a bit of tension and the occasional shock, stopping short of anything too gory. (If that’s what you want, try Calibre on Netflix instead.) Still, the script does find space for a bit of social commentary, taking acerbic potshots at everything from “kids today” to climate change and the rich / poor divide.
Get Duked! is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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