Aliens hit South London

Timothy Barber
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Cert: 12A

LATER this year we have the promising prospect of a Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford fighting off marauding extraterrestrials with six-shooters in Cowboys & Aliens; in the meantime, Attack the Block brings interplanetary nasties up against a more familiar (to Londoners, anyway) adversary – this is Hoodies & Aliens, and it’s a lot of fun.

On a scary South London council estate, a gang of teenage tearaways get distracted from their work mugging nice people like Jodie Whittaker’s nurse when they encounter an overgrown gremlin that’s crash-landed in their ‘hood’. Naturally, the alien beastie comes off second best, but as a hoard of his toothsome mates descends on the estate to get their own back, it’s up to the gang – led by the charismatic young actor John Boyega – to defend their turf.

What follows is a cracking mix of action, horror suspense and nicely-pitched humour. The latter element you’d expect from writer/director Joe Cornish, one half of the Adam & Joe duo who have spent over a decade mining contemporary pop culture for all the comedy value they can. But this being Cornish’s debut film, the deftness with which he handles the breakneck action and the fluid pacing are a pleasant surprise. The film isn’t perfect – it gradually loses its focus, and the alien monsters aren’t great – but it’s perfectly entertaining and suggests good things to come from both Cornish and his young cast, particularly Boyega.

Cert: 18

PART psychological thriller, part suspenseful action film, this gritty Aussie chamber piece is in fact a Western all over – right down to the point when the sheriff of a dusty nowheresville town says to his assembled deputies: “If Jimmy Conway rides into this town, he’ll be brining hell with him.”

Into the town Jimmy Conway rides, and sure enough he isn’t bringing flowers and goodwill. He’s a grizzled murderer who’s escaped from prison and is hell-bent on revenge and his ire is directed at the local cops, which is bad news for Shane Cooper (Ryan Kwanten), a junior law officer on his first day in the tiny outback town of Red Hill.

He’s come here with his pregnant wife looking for a quieter life (he was shot on duty in the city), and if hard-ass police chief Old Bill (Steve Bisley) isn’t exactly his cup of tea, Conway’s another thing all together.

Director Patrick Hughes ekes every drop of drama from the hard-worn landscape, though the arresting cinematography isn’t always matched by the dialogue, which can be clunky, or the plot, which makes nice use of trad Western tropes but unravels when grasping beyond that.

It’s a dark, intriguing movie nevertheless, and Kwanten – otherwise known as Vinnie from Home & Away and Jason Stackhouse from True Blood – is highly watchable in the lead role.

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