Review: In ‘Get Duked!,’ a deranged trip across the Scottish Highlands leads nowhere
The hip-hop-fueled Scottish horror-comedy “Get Duked!” which is low on both scares and laughs but has “cult film” written all over it, draws on a long tradition of bad-things-happening-to-naifs-in-the-wilderness stories. The feature debut of music video director Ninian Doff is probably best viewed late at night under the influence of a mind-altering, preferably hallucinatory, substance.
Originally titled “Boyz in the Wood” (which may have been the peak of its high-concept aspirations), the movie sends four lads out for an overnight trek across the Highlands to earn the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (which is an actual thing, a program advocating adolescent self-improvement, but seems totally made up in the context of the movie).
Three working-class buddies — Dean (Rian Gordon), William, who insists on being called DJ Beetroot (Viraj Juneja), and Duncan (Lewis Gribben), two half-wits and a quarter-wit (at best) — are assigned to attempt the DoEA by their headmaster. They are joined by Ian (Samuel Bottomley), a timid, fully-witted kid who actually volunteers for the expedition to boost his chances for college. Eager and lonely, he is all too aware that he’s reliant on the other three dolts to succeed and meet the award’s requirements of “teamwork, foraging and orienteering.”
The quartet is dropped at a trailhead by a teacher, Mr. Carlyle (Jonathan Aris), who is to meet up with them that evening to camp overnight, after which the boys will continue on their own until they reach the sea. Needless to say, obstacles ensue.
Initially, they are simply plagued by their own dimwittedness and desire to get high, but soon, after many ominous signs, they realize they are being hunted by a mask-wearing couple who come to be known as the Duke (Eddie Izzard) and Duchess (Georgie Glen).
There is also a hapless police sergeant (Kate Dickie) and her even more hapless constable (Kevin Guthrie), who believe they are on the trail of an “urban” pedophile and a terrorist gang of drug dealers from London (and perhaps zombies), until they are ordered to pursue a real crime — a bread thief — by their superintendent (Alice Lowe).
Tedium sets in early as the pratfalls and earthy comedy — the ingesting of magic-mushroom-infused rabbit poop comes to mind — are repeated again and again. As the movie gets crazier, the pace picks up, and the motley crew does approach the outer limits of being endearing.
The plot, such as it is, makes little sense until the end, long past the point of anyone caring. It wraps things up neatly with something like a statement about class conflict but its dependence on a deus ex machina gag to do so feels very uninspired.
It’s possible that if someone were to take the footage from “Get Duked!” speed it up and add some animation and John Philip Souza, you might get a decent Monty Python sketch. But not likely.
Rated: R for drug content, language throughout including sexual references, and some violence/bloody images
Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes
Playing: Streaming on Amazon Prime
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