wed 16/10/2019

Cockneys vs Zombies | reviews, news & interviews

Cockneys vs Zombies

Cockneys vs Zombies

Hate zombie movies? Loathe East End gangster films? See Cockneys vs Zombies

Alan Ford and Honor Blackman: their aim is true as OAP zombie killers Stills courtesy of Optimum Releasing

If you hate zombies and East End gangster movies, Cockneys vs Zombies will wreck those prejudices. Expect to have them turned topsy-turvy by this pocket-sized dynamo of horror comedy. Visually, it gets the simple things right straightaway. The blood looks real(ish). The London locations are cheerily drearily evocative. Then there's the unique opportunity of seeing Goldfinger Bond Girl and all-around heroine Honor Blackman fire a machine gun. Certainly as good as if not better than Shaun of the Dead, there is no doubt that Cockneys vs Zombies will be, in some cases, faster and smarter than its audience. This is the Holy Grail both audiences and filmmakers seek: a funny British comedy.

Director Matthias Hoene’s first theatrically-released feature delivers exactly what's on the marquee. Somewhere in London’s glittering East End, an unlucky construction crew digs up a pod of zombies. Standard rules apply: zombies reproduce by biting humans and track their prey by sheer determination not speed (a trick they probably picked up from mummies). This lack of velocity allows a bit of travelling time to another part of the East End. Here, Harry Treadaway (Fishtank, Control), Rasmus Hardiker (Skins, Lead Balloon) and EastEnders' Michelle Ryan (pictured below) decide to rob a local branch bank for a good cause: their grandfather's nursing home is about to be purchased and closed down by unsavoury property developers and money can stop the rot.

This simple setup is the basis of an exciting and hilarious story that sidesteps predictable schlock. There's enough innovation going on within each character and subplot to keep the grumpiest, pickiest viewer happy. (Real zombie aficionados will have seen all zombie-related surprises before but frankly, if you're that picky, you should probably stop seeing films altogether.) Lucas Roche, who’s worked mainly as an editor, co-wrote the screenplay with James Moran (Tower Block, Doctor Who) and between them, the whole shebang ticks along with a satisfying rhythm and skilfully worked-out plot points. This isn't a film written in an evening by two mates over a beer and, for a zombie film, that's saying something.

The heroes and villains act the way they ought to, just not necessarily in the way you’d imagine. Central to this is grandfather Ray Macguire, played by to the hilt by Alan Ford. The seasoned actor doesn’t bother to soften the tough guy persona that made his career (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, The Bill, The Sweeney, Jack Falls). Rather, he puts it to use with heft and a twist. Just when you think old Ray is at his weakest, in his final, twilight years, dreaming of bran and the old days, he springs into jaw-dropping action. Ford’s blazing performance exposes the secret ageist in us all. How dare we think, "Wow, he's old but he's really exciting!" Blackman and Richard Briers are a masterclass in comic timing - delightful proof that where there's a solid script, there's life. Hardiker, Treadaway, Ryan - and subplot stars Tony Gardner and Georgia King - are beautifully cast. There's not a weak performer or performance in the lot. 

If there is a criticism, it is that Cockneys vs Zombies doesn't have a novel destination - a relief, perhaps, when it could so easily have become a flesh-eating remake of The Italian Job. With exciting credit sequences and nifty theme tunes (Chas and Dave provide one), this rousing genre-blender deserves an audience beyond its cute descriptive title. If you're not moved by the characters' dilemma, you will be grabbed by the overall zing of the thing. Cockneys vs Zombies has plenty of zing. Call it verve. Call it brio. Call it good. See it.

Watch the trailer for Cockneys and Zombies

This isn't a film written in an evening by two mates over a beer and, for a zombie film, that's saying something


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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