(director/writer: Joe Cornish; cinematographer: Thomas Townend; editor: Jonathan Amos; music: Steven Price; cast: John Boyega (Moses), Jodie Whittaker (Samantha Adams), Alex Esmail (Pest), Leeon James (Jerome), Luke Treadway (Brewis), Jumayn Hunter (Hi-Hatz), Nick Frost (Ron), Franz Drameh (Dennis), Selom Awadzi (Tonks), Michael Ajao (Mayhem), Paige Meade (Dimples), Danielle Vitalis (Tia), Simon Howard (Biggz), (Ron), Sammy Williams (Probs), Maggie McCarthy (Margaret); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Nira Park & James Wilson; Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; 2011-UK/France)

“An adrenaline thrill ride cult action film that gets over as an unlikely sci-fi film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The debut film of the former comedian turned screenwriter and filmmaker Joe Cornish is an adrenaline thrill ride cult action film that gets over as an unlikely sci-fi film, one that has some laughs over its gangsta teens going from muggers to heroes in the course of one violent night of an alien attack at a South London housing project.

It opens with pretty nurse Samantha (Jodie Whittaker) mugged at knife-point by five Brixton multicultural slum-dwelling youths as she goes home to her South London flat. The robbery is interrupted as a meteorite lands on a car and the taciturn tough guy black 15-year-old gang leader Moses (John Boyega) slays the emerging alien and in the process gets scratched on the face. When the police arrest Moses after prowling the neighborhood with the vic and put him in the cage in back of the police van, they’re attacked by a swarm of hostile invading aliens and the cops are mutilated. Sam seeks the protection of the low-income housing project gang, her neighbors, as the aliens follow the scent of Moses and attack wherever he goes, as the neighborhood people must all surrender their pre-conceived notions and prejudices to band together for survival.

While the monsters, who resemble men in ape suits whose eyes glow a frightening blue and whose sharp long teeth are fiercely wolfish, are on the attack, we learn about Moses’ troubled family situation and how he’s dutiful about protecting his turf and being loyal to fellow gang members–Pest (Alex Esmail), Jerome (Leeon James), Tonks (Selom Awadzi) and Dennis (Franz Drameh). We also get to meet for comic relief adult neighborhood weed dealer Ron (Nick Frost) and his student customer Brewis (Luke Treadway) and learn that Ron grows weed in his flat that’s sold by the kidsfor the arrogant and violent teen boss of the block Hi-Hatz (Jumayn Hunter).

In the fast moving pic, where things buzz along like a roller-coaster ride and much of the dialogue is lost (at least by me) because of the heavy Brit accents, we see the teen gangstas treated with respect and ironically get redemption from the mugging vic when they’re glorified by their block as heroes for stopping an alien attack with their make-shift weapons–an attack in which the police were of no use. The cult film has a keen grip on the milieu of the slum-dwellers and of the gangsta culture of rappers, drug traffickers, video game players and wannabe outlaws. It sends out signals to fellow earthlings that humans better stick together against outside forces such as aliens or else places like Brixton will again have youths rioting and citizens outraged at their anti-social acts. Though the muggings and neighborhood crimes cannot be justified and the film is too silly to take to heart its more striking message of tolerance, the morally ambiguous liberal film by former South London resident Cornish, a mugging vic himself, is at least refreshing in that it wants to say something positive about kids who have so many things going against them that to absurdly make them heroes might on second thought not be that absurd as it first sounded.