If you’re up for an absurdist comedy-horror take on “The Most Dangerous Game” that involves murder, bad hip-hop and hallucinogenic rabbit poop, “Get Duked!” is the movie for you.
Granted, that description, while accurate, may be somewhat limiting, and you definitely have to be in the mood for it. But if you are, Ninian Doff’s film, buoyed by pitch-perfect performances, is worth watching.
It concerns a team-building exercise for ne’er do well kids called the Duke of Edinburgh Award. Teams have to hike through the Scottish Highlands for a couple days before arriving at the coast. If they get there, working together they pass. If not, they fail — or worse.
Dean (Rian Gordon), Duncan (Lewis Gribben) and William (Viraj Juneja), who answers only to DJ Beatroot, are suitably appalled at the idea, but they have no choice. They’re in trouble at school, so here they are, trying to complete the journey.
“To be honest, the whole thing is fraught with danger,” Mr. Carlyle (Jonathan Aris), the chaperone, said. “Really, I’m amazed they let teenagers do it.”
‘Get Duked!’ isn’t exactly a Mensa meeting
Ian (Samuel Bottomley), however, is pumped. He’s a home-schooled kid whose parents thought that if they forced him into something like this, he would make some friends. He alone among the four is in any way prepared. (A glance at the notes DJ Beatroot scribbles on the van ride to the drop-off includes his goals: “1. Make video. 2. Be famous.”)
Mr. Carlyle deposits the boys, leaving them to their own devices. Dean, Duncan and DJ Beatroot immediately start doing things like trying to figure out if an electric fence will, in fact, shock them. (It’s not exactly a Mensa meeting.) They also make a video for one of DJ Beatroot’s songs. Ian goes the more traditional Boy Scout kind of route, armed with maps and such, but he’s shouted down.
You might think stupidity would be their biggest obstacle to success, but it’s not. Not when a madman and his wife suddenly show up, sporting what look like masks made of skin, trying to kill them. The Duke (Eddie Izzard) and the Duchess (Georgie Glen), as the boys call them, are armed — he with a rifle, she with a sword — and definitely dangerous.
Their aim, the Duke explains, is to cull society of what they consider an undesirable element.
“The youth’s gone feral,” he says at one point. “They’re making a mockery of everything this country stands for.”
What makes the movie a strong debut
The more absurd the film gets — absurd indeed once the boys figure out that rabbit droppings will get them monstrously high — the better. Working together is, of course, a hallmark of such an exercise, and of such movies. Everyone’s pretty selfish at the outset, and even when things start to get dicey. “I’m sorry Ian, I can’t die,” DJ Beatroot said during one mad dash to safety. “I’m the future of hip-hop.”
Unlikely. Funny, though.
It’s no surprise and no spoiler that they’ll come around. There are some surprises, though. It’s the debut feature for Doff, who wrote the screenplay and directs. He’s visually inventive (if occasionally too much so, especially during the drugged-out scenes). And he’s adept at providing information in the background of a scene — something that is particularly effective in horror (it made “It Follows” one of the best horror films of the last decade) but also in comedy. And some of the background stuff here made me laugh out loud.
Of course shooting a film this way requires trust in the audience from the filmmaker, and Doff obviously has that. It’s an encouraging debut, and the cast, in particular Juneja, is game for whatever Doff asks of it. DJ Beatroot is an idiot, yes, but Juneja makes him so disarmingly confident in his lack of talent that you have to root for him (no pun intended).
Again, “Get Duked!” isn’t for everyone. But maybe it should be.
‘Get Duked!’ 3.5 stars
Great ★★★★★ Good ★★★★
Fair ★★★ Bad ★★ Bomb ★
Director: Ninian Doff.
Cast: Viras Juneja, Samuel Bottomley Eddie Izzard.
Rating: R for drug content, language throughout including sexual references, and some violence/bloody images.
Note: Streams Friday, Aug. 28, on Amazon Prime.
Reach Goodykoontz at [email protected] Facebook: facebook.com/GoodyOnFilm. Twitter: @goodyk.
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