Amazon Studios’ Get Duked! (also known as Boys in the Wood) from writer-director Ninian Doff originally premiered at South By South West 2019. The film stars Eddie Izzard, Samuel Bottomley, Viraj Juneja, Lewis Gribben, and Rian Gordon. This dark comedy leans into absurdity and violence while leveling it out with near-perfect comedic timing, and long gags that start in one act and pay off in another. Set in the Scottish Highlands during a camping trip competition, Get Duked! is focused on four city boys. But this isn’t any hiking competition, our four leads Dean (Rian Gordon), Duncan (Lewis Gribben), and DJ Beatroot (Viraj Juneja) are forced into the Duke of Edinburgh expedition to make up for burning down a school block. But, these kids who don’t care about authority, school, or anything really are joined by the nerdy Ian (Sam Bottomley) who just wants to buff up his university admissions.
But of course, this is a dark comedy that does more to blend elements of Attack the Block and Hot Fuzz in equal parts while developing its own unique absurdity that uses the upper class as a joke. While the first act revolves around the four boys fumbling in the wilderness, soon their expedition turns dangerous and they try to escape a mysterious huntsman known as The Duke (Eddie Izzard), who’s turned the Duke of Edinburgh expedition into his own personal hunting trip where he aims to eliminate problem children.
But don’t worry, the police are on the case even if they have no clue as to what case they’re on or what trail their following. Is the focus a bread thief? A gang? A murderer? It’s this element of ineptitude that brings out dry and sincere humor that balances the physical humor used when the boys are on camera. In a comedy of dark and violent errors, the boys learn the three goals of the expedition: teamwork, orienteering, and foraging. And they do this all by being pursued by a rich hunter who definitely read The Most Dangerous Game more times than he should have. From partying farmers to hallucinogenic scat and a falling van, there is a lot going on in Get Duked! and yet, never once does it feel uncalled for.
This film is a ride that you go on with rap music scoring every twist and turn. Get Duked! showcases Doff’s understanding of stereotypes and tropes as he exploits them to their fullest to pull the most comedy from them. The comedy here works in both dialogue, setting, and physical gags. That said, the amount of comedy and violence leave the larger theme of classism on the sidelines outside of large and overt callouts. That being said, I do think if I was a critic from Glasgow with a better understanding of the UK’s systemic class issues I would have a better appreciation for the story Doff is trying to tell.
That being said, Get Duked! doesn’t need to embrace big-brained concepts of class and anarchy to be good. It just needs to be itself. This film works because of the comedy, but that only works because of the excellent chemistry between our four leads, their situations, and The Duke. This film feels very personal in a way that it meets viewers where they’re at, doesn’t talk down to them, and uses the charisma of its young leads to elicit excitement and genuine laughs from its audience. The way the boys bounce insults off of each other and bond all feels genuine, not only for their ages or the characters but for the actors themselves. Additionally, while crude humor is featured, it never moves lands into edgelord territory but instead lands solidly in teen humor and satire with a level of self-awareness that is refreshing in teen comedies.
Now, Get Duked! isn’t perfect. The pacing is a little off and there are some loose threads that need some tidying, but all in all, this is probably the most fun I’ve had in a movie in a long while. Get Duked! aims for your funny bone and doesn’t miss, landing the crude, dark, and immature humor with flair and charisma that just makes it all work. Plus, a party sequence with hallucinating farmers and a dead man revived by drugs is not something I know I needed in a dark comedy, but Get Duked! showed me that I did. From beginning to end, this is a film that will make for a fun-filled movie night.
Get Duked is available exclusively on Amazon Prime.
Get Duked! isn’t perfect. The pacing is a little off and there are some loose threads that need some tidying, but all in all, this is probably the most fun I’ve had in a movie in a long while. Get Duked! aims for your funny bone and doesn’t miss, landing the crude, dark, and immature humor with flair and charisma that just makes it all work. Plus, a party sequence with hallucinating farmers and a dead man revived by drugs is not something I know I needed in a dark comedy, but Get Duked! showed me that I did. From beginning to end, this is a film that will make for a fun-filled movie night.