Movie Review: Cockneys Vs Zombies / Cert: 15 / Director: Matthias Hoene / Screenplay: James Moran, Lucas Roche / Starring: Rasmus Hardiker, Harry Treadaway, Alan Ford, Georgia King, Michelle Ryan, Richard Briers, Honor Blackman, Tony Selby / Release Date: August 31st
Cockneys Vs Zombies is a mad, rip-roaring mash-up of Shaun of the Dead meets Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and it absolutely does what it says on the tin - and then some. It also does something zombied-out film fans have long suspected well nigh impossible - it breathes new life, temporarily at least, into a genre so over-saturated it now comes with its own wet weather warning. If it’s true that there’s nothing new under the sun Cockneys Vs Zombies at least has the chutzpah to go straight for the comedy jugular as it depicts, one more time, an apocalypse of the undead variety and the struggles of a mismatched bunch of survivors to make it through to the end credits.
So here’s the deal. We’re in the East End of London and a massive residential redevelopment building site unearths a 17th century plague pit full of crumbling bones and rotten cadavers - and something very nasty and very viral. Before the credits - The Automatic’s well-used hit ‘Monster’ playing over zippy comic strip illustrations of the cast - two workmen have had their throats ripped out by animated shriveled corpses (shame we don’t see them again) and we’re on our way. Meanwhile Andy (Treadaway) and Terry (Hardiker), two feckless Cockney brothers, are planning a bank heist so they can save their Granddad’s care home from demolition. They team up with inept burglar Tuppence (Jack Doolan), their feisty cousin Katie (Ryan) and the psychopathic steel-skulled Mental Mickey (Ashley Thomas). Inevitably the heist goes spectacularly wrong and the gang find themselves surrounded by armed Police… and then something considerably worse. Meanwhile Granddad Ray (Ford), an ageing 1960s Krays-era faded London gangster, is trapped in the Bow Bells Care Home with his fellow residents (played with glorious relish by veterans such as Honor Blackman, Dudley Sutton, Georgina Hale, Tony Selby and, most deliciously of all, Richard Briers) as an army of the undead shuffles through the city.
Cockneys Vs Zombies, snappily directed by Matthias Hoene on a doubtlessly tiny budget, is exciting, audacious and uproariously funny, full of laugh out loud gags, a little bit of slapstick and some decent stomach-troubling gore and violence. James Moran’s script rattles along, populated by realistic, well-drawn East Enders who actually swear and are solidly believable in ways the Albert Square crowd can only dream of. Where previous British benchmark zombie flick Shaun of the Dead was Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s love letter to an adored genre of filmmaking, Cockneys Vs Zombies uses its undead hordes as a metaphor for the erosion of traditional East End values and the indomitable fighting spirit of real Cockneys who respect the importance of family values above all else. So whilst the core of the story - Andy and Terry determined to fight their way across London to save their Granddad - mirrors Shaun and Ed as they rescue Shaun’s Mum and girlfriend in Shaun of the Dead, there’s a very real sense that Andy and Terry would move Heaven and Earth, in their own clumsy way, to protect those closest to them whatever the circumstances. It’s a sweet and cheerful dynamic and Moran makes the audience really root for initially brittle and unlikable characters as they’re transformed from ruthless, if incompetent, tooled-up bank robbers, to desperate ingenious heart-of-gold survivalists.
Punctuated by energetic action sequences and with a real sense of world-gone-mad in its clever production design and atmospheric location footage, Cockneys Vs Zombies is hearty, good-natured stuff despite its blood and guts and its supporting cast of acting legends swearing like troopers and blazing away with machine guns. If you’ve ever wanted to see Richard Briers enthusiastically exterminating zombies - and come on, who hasn’t? - this one’s absolutely for you. Chalk up another palpable hit for quality British comedy horror.
Expected Rating: 6 out of 10