Get Duked! is a funny, anarchic comedy thriller that showcases the arrival of a talented new Scottish storyteller.
While you’d never know it from the indecipherable title, Get Duked! is a comedic thriller about four kids tasked with crossing the Scottish Highlands as part of a camping competition. The twist is that the film is actually a drug-fueled take on The Most Dangerous Game as United Kingdom elites hunt the boys for sports. The kids – three rough and tumble Glasgow lads and a nerdy kid not all that different from what you might expect if Russell from Up were transported into The Hunt – are collectively entirely unprepared for the adventure and are far more interested in dick jokes than survivalist training.
Perhaps the greatest triumph of Ninian Doff’s debut film is how unbelievably energetic it is. Blessed with a brief sub-90 minute run time, Get Duked! churns through plot so quickly that it leaves ample opportunity for character beats between the kids. If one plot thread loses your interest, it won’t be long until the film finds a new avenue for a laugh. The humor is oft sophomoric, but I found myself giggling throughout the film. Perhaps Doff’s greatest strength, especially as a first time director, is how much his work feels like it could’ve come from the mind of Edgar Wright or Taika Waititi. He is not on their level in this debut, but you can see the echoes of Wright’s manic style of filmmaking and Waititi’s wry sense of humor throughout. A pessimist might accuse the film of ripping off more than a little from Hot Fuzz and The Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
Get Duked! is also interested in much the same thematic space of 2020’s The Hunt. The set-up of rich people hunting the poor to improve the human stock cut from the same stock. The daffy police wrangled into the shenanigans help paint a stark picture of inequality in UK society – the rich can do as they please and law enforcement is too incompetent to help. There’s a bit of feisty, anarchic spirit to the whole project that suggests a very long life in campus dorm rooms is in store.
The kids are all quite good and showcase an easy chemistry. The adults – including Eddie Izzard (Hannibal), Kate Dickie (Game of Thrones), and James Cosmo (Braveheart) all manage to leave memorably humorous impressions despite modest screen time. Cosmo in particular, best known as a stoic Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, has a breezy gift for deadpan line readings and seems to vibe splendidly with the material.
Is Get Duked! high art? No. It’s crass, violent, and peppered with music video-style musical interludes. But it’s breezy and a hell of a lot of fun. It’s basically the perfect sort of midnight movie: it keeps you awake and it’s best with a drink.
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