Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 26 minutes, Director – Ninian Doff
Four students (Samuel Bottomley, Viraj Juneja, Rian Gordon, Lewis Gribben) find themselves being chased by a group of gun-wielding hunters as they try to complete their Duke of Edinburgh award in the Scottish Highlands.
The Duke of Edinburgh award is designed to “take delinquents out of the city and into the countryside”, according to an advert for the scheme that opens Ninian Doff’s feature directorial debut Get Duked! However, what the award possibly doesn’t often include is being chased by gun-wielding hunters (including Eddie Izzard) who believe that they must “kill the vermin so the crops may thrive”. The vermin being the 16 year olds who find themselves shuffling through the Scottish Highlands in the hope of completing the award. Three quarters of the group find themselves volunteered by the headteacher of their school to take part in the expedition after an incident involving the toilet block of the school turning into an inferno. Thus Dean (Rian Gordon), Duncan (Lewis Gribben) and the self-titled DJ Beatroot (Viraj Juneja) are stuck in an endless range of hills and fields with the only person in the school who wanted to actually take part in the expedition, Ian (Samuel Bottomley). It’s easy to see that there’s a divide between the group, or at least a distance between one and the rest.
As the four set out Ian begins to believe that his hopes of earning the award are never going to become reality. Early on after being left alone by their teacher (Jonathan Aris), who reassures them that the trail itself is very dangerous – unaware himself of the masked killers that will be chasing his pupils down – the map is ripped and used to roll up drugs, while DJ Beatroot seems more focused on promoting his rap album – entitled Cocktales, you can guess what every track is about – to all the local farmers. It’s such ideas that you would almost expect from a comedy initially entitled Boyz In The Wood. The film isn’t necessarily one-note, there are a fair share of different gags held within it, however it doesn’t quite manage to raise the laughs that it perhaps hopes for. The group with which we spend the majority of the film’s rather short run-time with certainly aren’t unlikable, and this is a film with which you don’t have to have a connection with the characters to find the humour – you certainly aren’t laughing ‘at’ them, although the main figures do appear to stem from a place of parody, labelled by some as satire. Perhaps it’s the nature that their antics, like the film’s narrative, do sometimes seem somewhat by the books, and at times slightly predictable.
Yet, there is still some humour to be found within the film. The local police, whose biggest worry is a thief raiding the bread bins of everyone in the area, suddenly find themselves tracking down a group of insane zombies, paedophiles and terrorists – all stemming from the chaos spawned by the boys trying to save their own lives in the hills of the Highlands. There are some laughs to be found within such characters, perhaps the most that the film creates, and there are still some that come from the main characters. And it should be made a point that Get Duked! does contain a type of humour that may not appeal to all, there are likely to be many people who will find the ration-made weapons and defences, and occasional drug-addled escapes and traipses of the mostly reluctant teens funny. But, there is the chance that this film won’t play out to everyone’s comedic tastes, partly due to the sometimes, though far from always, predictable nature of some gags, and a couple of the film’s events as a whole.
There are certainly some amusing moments within Get Duked! And the overall execution certainly isn’t frustrating. But, it’s potentially going to have a mixed reception from audiences. It does feel like somewhat familiar territory as a whole, in terms of both plot and humour; and that is perhaps the biggest barrier that the film creates, creating a sort of distance from the viewer, but the avoidance of one-joke humour is something that helps the film along. Stopping it from becoming boring or excessively predictable. There are some points that work, however at the end the finished product doesn’t seem to work quite as well as it could.
Get Duked! ultimately suffers from its by the books, familiar style. While there are one or two amusing moments dotted throughout these mostly come from side characters. It avoids a one-note feel, however the laughs unfortunately aren’t overly present on this expedition.