Get Duked!: A Heartfelt Misadventure That Checks All The Right Boxes
Remember when films could be unabashedly fun? Get Duked! certainly does – and over its 87-minute runtime, the feature debut never once takes its foot off the pedal.
The comparisons for Ninian Doff’s outstandingly-funny dark comedy have come hot and heavy as of late – but most impressively, none of them seem off-point. From Edgar-Wright-But-Hiking to Degenerate Hunt For The Wilderpeople – or as this author saw it, Scottish Attack The Block – those are some lofty standards for Duked! to hit, yet the soon-to-be cult classic reaches them all at breakneck speed.
Drop three rowdy, delinquent teens (and a goody-two-shoes) into the Scottish Highlands and the hijinx practically write themselves, but Doff never seems satisfied and constantly pushes the boys into stranger and more uneven ground by the minute. Hunted by mysterious cult members with a population-culling agenda, the foursome somehow nearly get lost before the opening credits have even finished rolling.
Playing side-by-side with elements of both horror and farcical parody, Duked! manages to have its cake and eat it too – and the result is a whole lot of heart baked inside an obscene hash-baked mixtape. So as police bumble their way into an investigation over a presumed and rampant bread thief and the boys attempt to escape their circumstances, the film provides an important distinction for the trek: murder and mystery have reached small-town Scottland and nobody – not the teens, farmers, or cops – knows just how to handle it.
While Eddie Izzard and Kate Dickie earn top billing – and their respective roles as The Duke and Sergeant Morag add a much-needed dose of absurdity – Get Duked! relies on its group of teenagers to carry the film. Thankfully, Rian Gordon (Dean), Lewis Gribben (Duncan), Viraj Juneja (DJ Beatroot), and Samuel Bottomley (Ian) are all more than up for the task. Weaving in charismatic gusto over the constantly-interrupting carousel of bickering, it’s as if the It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia cast had landed on the Cliffs of Edinburgh themselves.
For a movie made up of mostly newcomers, its stylishness shines through at every corner. Led by the excellent Gordon, the boys’ on-screen chemistry is palpable enough to believe that Doff just turned on the camera and let it roll on their improvisation. Aided by handy camerawork and tight editing, the film never churns to a halt or stops to catch a breath for too long. Instead, Duked! opts to fill each moment with a well-landing callback or a joke so crude that’s impossible not to crack a smile – a move that insists on disarming the viewer just before something violent or bloody finds its way on screen. And by God, they sure don’t skimp on physical madness as a gory parade of burn wounds, car accidents, and hallucinogenic drugs ensure that the journey is just as riotous as the ultimate destination.
Although this film – originally titled Boyz In The Wood when it debuted at South by Southwest in 2019 – won’t be looking toward award season with any kind of seriousness, it also doesn’t want to. It’s the Cub Scouts on LSD, The Goonies with guns, and a million other influences all mashed into one thrilling, enjoyable map-rolled joint of its own. But make no mistake: for as many easy comparisons as this film invites, Doff and the boys have created a unique and refreshing misadventure that can’t be looked away from. As a brisk, hilarious, and sometimes socially-poignant countryside jaunt, Get Duked! is the perfect exclamation point for this year’s tumultuous safari thus far.
Get Duked! will be available on Amazon Prime starting August 28th.