Four teenagers are hunted by psychotic aristocrats in Ninian Doff's likeable but baggy caper, set in the Scottish Highlands
Initially marketed under the name Boyz in the Wood, this debut feature from writer-director Ninian Doff arrives as a cleverer, more original film than either of its titles suggest. A crass, funny adventure yarn that works as both a fish out of water comedy and a sincere look at class war in modern Britain, Get Duked!, at times, bite off a bit more than it can chew. But it's also a film that's elevated by its lovable, highly quotable young heroes and some sharp and witty writing.
After burning down a school toilet, teenage misfits Dean (Rian Gordon), Duncan (Lewis Gribben), and DJ (Viraj Juneja) face punishment in the form of compulsory participation in the Duke of Edinburgh award. City boys through and through, they’re unceremoniously dumped in the Scottish Highlands, while their only hope of making it through lies with the deeply uncool Ian (Samuel Bottomley), who has actually volunteered to be there.
Doff definitely deals in archetypes for this lead quartet – there’s the dumb one, the nerdy one, the rapper, and the leader – but charming performances and great chemistry ensure that the characters are far more than they appear on paper. Their friendship feels very real, grounding their misadventures in reality before things kick in to high gear thanks to the arrival of some psychopathic aristocrats.
These evil poshos, led by Eddie Izzard as “The Duke,” set about hunting the boys through the wilderness. The first few chases are a lot of fun, and very funny, with some great one-liners and visual gags, especially once the hapless local police get involved. As the plot progresses, though, it increasingly devolves into more of a sketch show than a coherent story, and while some vignettes are enjoyable enough to distract from the structural collapse, Get Duked! eventually gets too chaotic, leading to a finale that has to juggle too many tones.
A rousing speech about how the older, wealthier generations have left the youth of today with bleak futures is effective, but swiftly undercut by some silly plot contrivances. Fortunately, there’s a lot of catharsis to be found in the boys turning the tables on the hunters, each of them bringing a unique skill to help the group survive, from DJ winning over the local farmers by conducting a rave to Duncan improvising a bomb out of camping equipment and very bad hash.
Doff also provides some memorably disconcerting tripping scenes, and it’s in these moments that his background as a music video director becomes most obvious. Gurning faces dance across the screen, and the ritualistic chants of the posh hunters take on the quality of an EDM track. There’s a level of imagination and ambition on show in Get Duked! that’s rather rare for its genre, helping it avoid the very long shadow of The Inbetweeners. Any British teen comedy about likably lame boys will face comparison with Channel 4’s iconic sitcom, but Get Duked!’s inventive visuals and occasional horror-movie trappings allow it to stand on its own.
At under 90 minutes, it whizzes by, the first half in particular proving to be a real blast. It might get too baggy and scattershot towards the climax, but Get Duked! is still a trip worth taking, not to mention a fantastic calling card for its four young leads.
Get Duked! is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.Where to watch