Get Duked! (2019): Film Review
Streaming now on Amazon Prime.
Sometimes, a piece of content comes along that almost seems impossible to describe. Not necessarily because it has a relatively confusing plot, or because there are spoilers involved; but rather because there isn't anything like it. Even trying to explain the plot in a normal fashion might have people wondering if you are serious, and explaining the other qualities that help it stand out might just strike disbelief. Ninian Doff's debut feature film, Get Duked!, is not only a great example of a piece of work that falls into this dilemma, but perhaps one of the best examples. There is seriously nothing like this film, and to be honest, it's absolutely bonkers. But unironically, it's also one of the best films this year has to offer.
The premise of Get Duked! – a hip-hop infused tale of brotherhood, friendship, and an odd sort of hunting – is a simple one. Dean (Rion Gordan), Duncan (Lewis Gribben), and DJ Beatroot (Viraj Juneja), are school burnouts, both metaphorically and literally. After getting into trouble with the school involving lighter fluid, a bathroom, and a rap song, the three are forced to participate in the "Duke of Edinburgh" quest – a four-person quest through the Scottish Highlands focused on building teamwork, orienteering, and foraging skills. While reluctant and unsold by the premise, the three have no choice but to go on the journey, where they meet Ian (Samuel Bottomley), a student with the exact opposite personality of themselves: homeschooled, friendless, and a "good kid". As the four begin their journey, not all is what it seems. It just might appear that the "Duke of Edinburgh" isn't as much of a quest as it is a manhunt, and the Highlands just gained four new targets.
To say Get Duked! is genre-bending might be selling it short. While it really is a mix of comedy, action, adventure, and thriller; everything flows so naturally that it never feels like it is trying to blend genres. Rather, it functions as a genre of its own. The film is wildly entertaining, and with each scene and act, there are always scenes that will have viewers hollering in laughter, on the edge of their seat, and often a mix of those two things. Yes, the plot is absolutely insane, and the film knows that: rather than trying to sell what is happening to the audience, Get Duked! instead chooses to operate as the perfect B-movie. It embraces it's lack of nuance to create an experience that contains so much vision and heart, and by doing that, it creates a nuance of its own.
While the plot is a completely unexpected quality, perhaps the most surprising part of Get Duked! is how effectively it functions as a piece of sociopolitical commentary. There is a significant age gap between the hunters and the hunted, and this is a gap that is often spoken upon whenever the two parties interact. While the film does take both a more lax and a more serious tone at the same in the second half, it is that serious tone that helps differentiate the film from other films in the genre. There are so many fascinating ideas on the generational gap between old and young here, and by using such a far-fetched story that feels oddly grounded, Get Duked! is able to relay these ideas in a way that sticks with viewers long after the credits have rolled, a significant feat.
Of course, the success of the messaging and the film itself is a testament to the film's performances as much as the film's script and direction. While each of the lead four actors are spectacular in their roles, Get Duked!'s secret weapon is the chemistry between them. It's honestly hard at times to believe that the four haven't been lifelong friends, because they bounce off of each other's commentary in such an impressive fashion. Sure, the script may be rapid-fire and always yearning for laughs, but the delivery is what really sells everything that is happening. None of this, and the heartwarming feeling that's a product of the film, would be possible without the chemistry between the cast. And in a less refined and critical sense, they're just funny.
Humor is a prominent part, if not the most prominent part, of Get Duked!, but films rarely get this funny. Right from the start, the jokes come at lightning speed, and the film rarely misses a beat with an unwarranted or unfunny joke. While this is partly a product of the insane plot present and the cast's performances and chemistry, it's also because Doff's script is both fresh and razor-sharp. Part of the issue with watching comedies alone, which has been especially prominent due to COVID-19, is that comedy is a communal experience. There is a sense of community when everyone is laughing at a joke, and it can be hard to get the full feeling of a comedy without having a lot of people to experience it with. Get Duked! works, and is consistently and effortlessly hilarious, regardless of if you're watching it alone, with a few other people, or in a crowded movie theater. The jokes are delivered in such a smooth fashion that they rarely feel unneeded or overboard – a feat that not a lot of other comedies can reach.
That might be the best part of Get Duked!. It's just a whole lot of fun. The film knows it's not going to change the world of cinema, but at the same time, it never really tries to. Comedies often fail these days because they try too hard to be memorable, and by doing that, lack anything to truly define themselves when it's all over. This film is a gentle yet poignant reminder that sometimes, just making a movie enjoyable can create the best kind of audience experience. At just 86 minutes, a short runtime the film breezes through, Get Duked! has it all: a fantastic script, a likeable cast, and a bold yet necessary set of messages. Sometimes, and more often than not, that's more than enough.
Director: Ninian Doff.
Starring: Samuel Bottomley, Viraj Juneja, Rian Gordon, Lewis Gribben, Eddie Izzard, Katie Dickie.
Release Date: August 28, 2020; Amazon Prime.
Rated R for drug content, language throughout including sexual references, and some violence/bloody images.
Previously titled Boyz In The Wood.