Even though the young men featured in Ninian Doff’s energetic comedy Get Duked! aren’t the most likeable of characters when we first meet them, they do grow on you. And by the film’s end, their unwitting streaks of dumb luck (and Doff’s wonderfully poised sense of aesthetics) are enough to make us care about them in a manic comedy that’s both gratifying and just broad enough to appreciate the film’s weird edges.
The young men in question are Dean (Rion Jordan), DJ Beatroot (Viraj Juneja), and Duncan (Lewis Gribban), juvenile delinquents forced to participate in the Duke of Edinburgh wilderness trek across the Scottish Highlands in the hopes of reforming them from the toilet-exploding escapades that landed them there. Also along for the trip is Ian (Rian Jordan), who sticks out like a sore thumb because he’s there for his own intellectual and survival edification. One running gag shows him studiously checking, and then erasing, skills such as “teamwork” and “foraging” that should be collected by the group along the way.
Unceremoniously dumped in the middle of nowhere and told to meet their counselor (Johnathan Aris) several miles away at a campsite, Get Duked! begins like a teen version of something legendary British filmmaker Alan Clarke might have made in his day, although I’m sure his version would have highlighted the drugs and morose angst of these boys tenfold. Instead, in the hands of filmmaker Doff, the film swerves from comedy to witchy horror in an instant as the boys are soon tailed (and shot at) by a masked man (Eddie Izzard) who seems more concerned with ethnic cleansing than helping these poor sods find their way along the fields.
Naturally, Get Duked! doesn’t mire itself within incestual-like horror tropes for long. It’s too buoyant and littered with wonderful sight gags to take itself too seriously. Stop-downs for music videos (since DJ Beatroot’s rap skills become a huge linchpin for the narrative), drug-addled episodes, and entertaining comedic twists fill the second half of the film. This is a film that generates enormous humor from a rolling van in the background, or the manner in which the local police (led by actress Kate Dickie) become excited when they can replace their top current case of “bread thief” to “pedophile terrorist”.
Generating large buzz coming out of last year’s South By Southwest Festival, Get Duked! should impress anyone looking for a rather shaggy comedy in humble clothing.
Get Duked! begins streaming on Amazon Prime on Friday, August 28, 2020.