Ninian Doff’s comedy Get Duked! wasn’t really on my radar earlier this year (back when it was called Boyz in the Wood), but I decided to give it a go, and I’m glad I did. It has the gleeful anarchy I enjoy in films like Hot Fuzz, Attack the Block, and Sightseers where domestic tranquility is shattered by violence, and that violence is greeted by silly dark comedy. It’s a unique mixture that’s more common to British comedy than it is for the U.S., and that combination gives Get Duked! its pop. You should give this breezy 87 minute comedy your time and go in completely cold, because if you do, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what Doff and his young cast have accomplished.
Dean (Rian Gordon), Duncan (Lewis Gribben), and DJ Beatroot (Viraj Juneja) are teenage screw-ups who only make life difficult for the people around them. As part of their latest punishment, they’ve been forced to participate in the Duke of Edinburgh Award, an outdoor character-building exercise. They’re joined by Ian (Samuel Bottomley), a lonely homeschooled kid who genuinely wants to build the skills promised by the activity. The quartet’s trek through the Scottish Highlands is disrupted when they discover that they’re being hunted by the masked Duke (Eddie Izzard) and Duchess (Georgie Glen) for sport. Meanwhile, local cops Sergeant Morag (Kate Dickie) and PC Hamish (Kevin Guthrie) believe they have stumbled onto a local case that’s even bigger than their top priority, catching a local bread thief.
Doff’s style will be familiar to those who have fallen for the films of Edgar Wright or the darker, more twisted stylings of Ben Wheatley, but he often harnesses this visual flair to his own ends rather than coming off as a pale imitation. By the time you get to a hip-hop musical number, you can tell that Doff is in total control of this narrative and playing by his own rules. It makes Get Duked! a joyously explosive experience as it simply does not care about being anything other than silly and wild. It’s the kind of a movie where you just want to get blazed and laugh at what antics the kids will get into next.
The plot doesn’t make any grand demands of its audience. It’s basically The Most Dangerous Game except the kids being hunted are the unlikeliest of survivors. And in a fun twist, while we had this “humans hunting humans as societal commentary” movie earlier this year with The Hunt, Get Duked! does it way better without ever being overbearing or ostentatious. The Duke and Duchess are rich snobs (something that carries more weight when you consider the class structure in the U.K.) trying to “cull” young punks like Dean, Duncan, DJ Beatroot, and Ian to keep society pure. That’s not reinventing the wheel but Doff knows how to have a lot of fun with it and the stranger and sillier the movie gets, the better it is.
There are times when Get Duked! feels more like a comedy sketch than a movie due to the thin characterization (the film breezes past any kind of prologue to get right to the teens in the middle of the Highlands), but I enjoy the film’s unapologetic sugar high. It’s not really aiming for pathos or character development, and that fits in a movie about fighting off people who want to spoil your good time. Get Duked! is goofy, farcical, bloody, and I’m still kind of impressed at how damn well it works.