Gawd blimey, there’s facking zombies everywhere! BOOM! Tricksy editing but no Guy Ritchie in sight. COCKNEYS VS. ZOMBIES, a hugely anticipated premiere, lurches from B-movie badassness to C-movie crapness to something almost resembling an honest and delightfully funny portrayal of East End folk, in the blink of an eye. It’s more disorientating than a zombie with its head twisted at a highly peculiar angle, but it is huge fun nonetheless.
The film follows two brothers, Terry (Rasmus Hardiker) and Andy (Harry Treadaway), and their locksmith cousin Katy (Michelle Ryan) as they bungle a bank robbery aimed at saving their grandfather’s care home from a construction company. The problem is that the careless contractors have accidentally decimated a sealed, BURIAL GROUND-style crypt and it isn’t long before ‘the zoms’ (a fantastic horde of extras) shuffle out to create comically slow chaos.
The film is a strange creature. There are some funny sight gags (including a bonkers-brilliant baby moment) and the central premise of the besieged senior’s home actually works surprisingly well as the actors give it their all. Alas, herein also lies the central problem – whether it’s down to character acting or simple inexperience, the film is badly let down by several instances of really awful line delivery as one or two of the cast forget that they should play their situation seriously in order to let the wit of these larger than life characters shine through, rather than simply attempting to mimic the cant/banter. This isn’t just limited to the younger actors, either, as one or two of the older players occasionally appears to struggle with the lines they have been given. This may not actually be their fault as much as that of the script – you watch this film to see the legends show the kids how it’s done and Honour Blackman (Bond girl Pussy Galore) is feisty and powerful enough without having to prove it by swearing. Touches like this feel clunky and wrong and don’t suit the rather charming, realistic edge of the film.
Realistic edge, you say? In a zombie film? Yes. What gives this film its punch is the relationship between the central family, which is held together with a frankly marvellous performance from Hardiker as the resourceful, funny and brave but slightly out of his depth Terry. He has wonderful charisma and affects a superb wideboy attitude, posture and all. He is totally believable and his banter is brilliant. Special mention must also go to Michelle Ryan, familiar to most of the English audience as a regular from EASTENDERS. Her comic timing and intonation is fantastic in places. She plays the character as a believably hardened bitch with a heart. In doing this, she does a fab job of stopping Katy the lock-pick from becoming a cheap bazooka(s) babe.
The characters are important considering that the action does get repetitive, with endless gun fights, plucky pensioners and repeated shots of zombies lick-and-sticking on to windows, doors and fences. This is, however, made up for by the overall tone of the film, from the fun (and rather surprising inclusion of The Kaiser Chief’s song “I Predict A Riot”) through to the film’s almost Shakespearean celebration of the old East End.
Parts may be imperfect, but its heart is in the right place and I had tears rolling down my face on more than one occasion. Watch out, zoms, the zimmers and their kids are caming ta ge’cha!
Dr Karen Oughton