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Review: Brit Horror-Comedy ‘Cockneys Vs. Zombies’

Review: Brit Horror-Comedy 'Cockneys Vs. Zombies'

Has there been anything of
worth in the world of zombies in the last five years or so? It feels like the
last time the walking dead were relevant was Edgar Wright’s savvy send-up
Shaun of the Dead,” with a footnote to the genre being the angry politics of
George A. Romero’s “Land Of The Dead” and the popular success of empty-headed
ventures “World War Z” and “The Walking Dead.” There’s no shortage of zombies
in the mainstream now, and the novelty of another skin-snacking apocalypse has
worn off. You really need to bring a new gimmick to the table if you’re going
with zombies. Hence, one-joke premises like “Cockneys Vs. Zombies.”

This plucky horror comedy
plumbs depths we’ve seen before, though there’s some credit due to them burying
the lede. The film starts out by following the sometimes-antagonist
relationship between young brothers Andy and Terry (Harry Treadaway, Rasmus
) who are planning a poppycock bank heist. Terry’s smaller and less
attractive, overcompensating by being the most overly obnoxious; it’s Andy who
is the alpha male, hyper capable in a way that suggests he doesn’t get much
done without his brother. He has a vast array of skills, but he’s seen in
flashback wasting them in a series of bar fights.

The revelation is strategic,
meant to establish these two as hoodlums before winning them over to our side.
Their bounty isn’t made for flaunting, but to keep open an old folks home where
dear old grandpa resides, even as he chastises them for having menial part-time
jobs. It somehow is meant to make their Keystone Krooks hijinks more palatable,
as well as the employment of a skeptical cousin (Michelle Ryan) who can’t help
but raise an eyebrow to their plans. When she is given a thick mustache as a
disguise, it sparks a discussion about the size of her bust. We’re also
supposed to just accept that it’s perfectly normal for them to shrink in fear
of the loose cannon they reluctantly recruit, the film’s only black man, and a
vicious sociopath with a considerable track record of violence. Constant
whip-crack flashbacks a la bad basic cable is this movie’s drug of choice.

Because these things happen,
their bank siege coincides with a sudden zombie outbreak that swallows up the
few barren London streets this low budget affair could afford to rent. Bumbling
their way through a deceptively easy heist, they stumble out into the face of
their shuffling, decaying zombie. What follows is what passes for excitement in
any zombie-related entertainment in 2013: endless moments that allow our lead
characters to be mass murderers with no restraint, and keep a very active (and
skilled, it must be said) makeup crew in business, depicting a series of
elaborate zombie murders.

These characters don’t seem to
be the Cockneys of the title, however, leaving that honor to the crew still
trapped in the old folks’ home. These surly, crusty old men and women can
barely walk without breaking a hip, but they still find plenty of ways to
trouble the shuffling dead in a series of sight gags that mock the elderly for
being slow and absent-minded. In a sea of reanimated corpses, Alan Ford
charmingly curses and elbows his way to the center of the frame. The aging
star, who also had a similarly showy role in the similar direct-to-DVD mash-up
Strippers Vs. Werewolves” (uh-huh), digs into his part with glee. Matched with
a game Honor Blackman, they provide the movie’s only real stab at pathos,
suggesting a sliver of a life beyond the vanquishing of the walking undead.

As a movie, it’s quite an
effects reel: “Cockneys Vs. Zombies” is a greatest hits package of your least
demanding expectations given such a title. The mistake of many zombie films is
that they pretend the resurrected corpses are the bad guys, which leads to
tensionless “us vs. them” hokum, a cheap way to give sympathy and honor to
potential survivors. They’re barely even trying, which is surprising given that
this is hitting theaters and not skipping straight to an On-Demand platform.
But you get what you asked for: there are Cockney accents in this film, and
there are zombies. Somebody had to ask for it, so here it is. [D]

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