Eddie Izzard as The Duke
Kate Dickie as Sergeant Morag
James Cosmo as Farmer
Kevin Guthrie as PC Hamish
Jonathan Aris as Mr. Carlyle
Alice Lowe as Superintendent
Samuel Bottomley as Ian
Viraj Juneja as DJ Beatroot
Rian Gordon as Dean Gibson
Lewis Gribben as Duncan MacDonald
Georgie Glen as The Duchess
Written & Directed by Ninian Doff
Get Duked! Review:
The coming-of-age genre is one so full to the brim that when something unique and endlessly enjoyable comes along, it’s like a gift from cinematic heaven, and though Get Duked! may not be a masterpiece, it is hands-down one of the freshest and subversive takes on the coming-of-age and horror-thriller genres that makes for one hell of a ride.
Dean, Duncan and DJ Beatroot are teenage pals from Glasgow who embark on the character-building camping trip — based on a real-life program — known as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, where foraging, teamwork and orienteering are the order of the day. Eager to cut loose and smoke weed in the Scottish Highlands, the trio find themselves paired with strait-laced Ian, a fellow camper determined to play by the rules. After veering off-path into remote farmland that’s worlds away from their urban comfort zone, the boys find themselves hunted down by a shadowy force hell-bent on extinguishing their futures.
As we’re first introduced to the central troublemakers, there’s unfortunately an air of familiarity as each troublemaker is certainly a character type audiences have seen time and again as the resident outsiders to the authoritative system, the druggie, the aspiring hip-hop artist and soon-to-be pyromaniac, as well as their involuntary partnership with a straight-laced goody-two-shoes. Thankfully, this quickly passes and the kinetic look into each of their lives that Doff offers viewers proves to not only be insightful but also rather original and helps connect audiences to the group faster than most bouts of dialogue in other genre fare would.
Once the boys are left on their own to the wilderness, the fishes out of water humor plays out very effectively and allows the four leads to show their comedic chops very early on in the film, from trying to peddle hip-hop music to isolated farmers to smoking what appears to be gunpowder-infused marijuana. The chemistry that the boys display with each other, including the uncool Ian, is some of the most believable and seamless any coming-of-age film focused on a group of kids has displayed since the days of the Brat Pack. There’s no awkwardness between them, no hesitation or uncertainty about playing off of each other’s energies or jokes, they all show a true commitment to their characters and each other that helps make every scene a riot to watch.
Doff subsequently wastes no time putting these characters’ lives in jeopardy with the mysterious Duke and Duchess hunting them down through the highlands and the transition between the genres only further highlights the debut filmmaker’s grip on the tricky task of balancing the seemingly conflicting tones. While we are made to fear for the boys’ safety a number of times and feel as though we’re being set up to watch them die in a number of scenes, Doff does a great job of allowing the humor to still flow from these moments and subvert audience expectations at nearly every turn.
One of the film’s biggest highlights truly is the manic energy on display throughout the film in Doff’s direction, feeling like a happy blend of the hyperkinetic energy of Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy and the expertly small-scale nature of Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block. From raves with farmers partaking in hallucinogenics to haunting nighttime sacrificial rituals, Doff not only keeps the film looking great from start to finish but also keeps the pace feeling brisk without losing the necessary character development moments.
Overall, Get Duked! may suffer from some formulaic plotting at the start of its story, but thanks to rich direction and a subversive script from Doff and zany performances from its cast, it sets itself apart as one of the freshest and entertaining entries into the coming-of-age genre in a long while.