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STUDIO Shout! Factory
RUNNING TIME 88 Minutes
• 2 Audio Commentaries
• Original Look Behind the Scenes
• Digital Copy
• Deleted Scenes
A movie that manages to deliver on the lofty promises of its title.
Rasmus Hardiker, Harry Treadaway, Michelle Ryan, Alan Ford, Honor Blackman, Jack Doolan, Georgia King, Ashley Thomas
When some down-on-their-luck old-timers are at risk of losing their home to developers, a group of young, inept criminals decide to take matters into their own hands. The only think standing in their way? A zombie outbreak in London! Now, it’s up to a bunch of east-enders to fight their way out of the zombie-infested city, led by an unlikely gang of amateur bank robbers and foul-mouthed, plucky pensioners.
Full disclosure: everything I know about Cockneys and London’s East End comes from Guy Ritchie movies, the video game The Getaway, and a smattering of cartoonish stereotypes on British sitcoms. Basically I know just enough about Cockneys to deeply offend someone who is one and nothing more.
Cockneys vs. Zombies sounds like a low-brow send-up of ugly lower-class stereotypes in a horror setting. The opening does little to dispel that assumption, as a couple of dimwitted construction workers stumble upon a sealed tomb and are attacked and eaten by skeletons. From this point, the narrative splits in two.
In plot A we have the Terry (Rasmus Hardiker, he played Courtney in Your Highness) and Andy (Harry Treadaway), two brothers preparing to rob a bank with the help of a terrible stick-up man (Jack Doolan), their locksmith cousin (Michelle Ryan), and an insane Iraq war veteran who goes by the name of Mental Mickey (Ashley Thomas.) Terry is a slick intelligent little prick and Andy is a dumb optimist with an abundance of luck who enjoys picking fights with people on both he and his brother’s behalf, the reason they’ve chosen to become bank robbers like their late parents is so that they can save the nursing home of their grandfather (more on him in a moment) from being demolished. Naturally the robbery does not go as planned and the only thing that saves our protagonists from a bloody shootout with the police is the apocalypse.
Meanwhile in plot B, the boy’s grandfather Ray (Snatch’s very own Brick Top, Alan Ford) and his lady friend Peggy (Pussy Galore herself, Honor Blackman) barricade the retirement home against the hordes of the undead and make a stand with the few residents that are left after the nurses and staff have all been eaten.
Plot A is your typical Guy Ritchie-esque dimwitted crooks scenario, except with zombies. It’s not without its charm but this whole pastiche is kind of old hat at this point and you can see where it’s going from a mile away. Plot B is where the charm lies. The elderly don’t get much use in movies except when the plot requires an unrepentant racist, sweet grandparent figure, or wise elder to impart information. It’s terribly refreshing to see a cast of older actors portraying a competent group of people with unique and human character traits and an ability to defend themselves. There are a few token elderly jokes (easily the best joke in the entire movie involves a man in a walker slowly running away from zombies that are barely keeping pace with him) but they all seem to be done in good humor. There’s no gross-out jokes and Ray and Peggy’s romance isn’t played as humorous or disgusting. None of the jokes are at anyone’s expense and the humor never takes on an ugly edge like a lot of the jokes in plot A, like the part where a man punts a zombified baby into a billboard. I would happily watch an entire movie built around Plot B.
As much as I love Plot B I don’t want to trash Plot A entirely. The brothers are compelling enough but their cousin Katy is probably the best character in the movie. Katy is another film rarity; she’s a young reasonably attractive woman who is competent, level-headed, and smart but never puts herself in a situation where she requires saving and has no romantic connection to anyone else in the movie and yet the film-makers didn’t feel the need to make her a lesbian just so these traits would be “believable” (I’m looking you right square in the eye here, Riddick.)
The biggest weak link with Plot A is Mental Mickey. Mental is a lanky black man with a large facial scar from a wound suffered in Iraq where a good portion of his skull was replaced with a metal plate. He’s loud, dumb, and head-butts people and objects because they make him mad. There are people that may be rather annoyed that the only major black character in the entire movie (the other black characters are one of the dumb construction workers from the beginning and some teenagers buying drugs a couple scenes later) is more or less a hateful stereotype but focusing on that one aspect is like finding a particularly offensive peanut in the massive pile of shit someone left on your pillow. I don’t necessarily fault the writer or director as this type of character is a staple of crime movies and TV shows where it’s used more sparingly, but in zombie movies this is a tired trope that just needs to go away. Ultimately, Mental’s characteristics do serve the plot and Ashley Thomas does his level best to make the character memorable but I only accept him with a grudging sigh.
Cockneys vs. Zombies was a big surprise for me. I expected a cheap and sleazy horror movie with a bunch of mugging actors doing their best awful lower-class accents (like a zombie version of Inbred) but instead I got an unselfconscious horror comedy that knows when to be funny and when to play it straight. I would have to compare this movie to similar efforts like Fido, Undead, Zombieland, and Shaun of the Dead, (didn’t think I’d make it through a review of a British zombie movie without bringing that one up, did you?) It’s a horror movie where comedy comes from the characters and how they approach the situation, not the situation itself. The film-makers obviously love the characters, even the pricks, and watching this movie made me happy regardless of how bleakness of some of these characters’ ends.
I’ve probably built it up a bit too much now, and you can blame your raised expectations on me, but I really like this movie. If this the caliber of non-nostalgia Scream! Factory releases, then this niche has a whole lot of promise.
As usual, Scream! Factory has tossed a bunch of special features on here like deleted scenes, audio commentaries, and featurettes. This release is Blu-Ray only, in 1080p High Definition (2.35:1) with DTS-HD Master Audio with 5.1 Surround sound. The disk has English subtitles.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars