For the second time this year, we’re getting a movie about humans hunting humans in a remote clearing. First there was “The Hunt,” now comes “Get Duked!” which plays this “Hunger Games” scenario strictly for dark laughs and succeeds on a regular basis, thanks to the blazing creativity of writer-director Ninian Doff, whose technique will remind you more than a little of prime-form Guy Ritchie.
Originally titled “Boyz in the Wood” before the switch to this inferior title, “Get Duked!” is an action-comedy about four teenage boys who must successfully navigate a journey through the Scottish Highlands in order to win the prestigious Duke of Edinburgh Challenge. For the trio of delinquents Dean (Rian Gordon), Duncan (Lewis Gribben) and “DJ Beetroot” (Viraj Juneja), this is their last attempt to redeem themselves after years of failing at school and getting into trouble. Rounding out the quartet is the nerdy loner Ian (Samuel Bottomley), who has been forced to attend by his well-meaning mum, who wants Ian to make some friends. Aw, that’s nice.
Writer-director Doff has great fun playing with backgrounds in scene after scene. Early on, the boys are oblivious to the “Missing” flyers posted behind them; if they had just turned around, they would have realized dozens of their predecessors never emerged from the Highlands. Later, some seriously funny slapstick gags take place behind characters who never turn around. As the boys wander about aimlessly (they’ve unwittingly rendered their map useless), looking for ways to get high, their snappy banter is rudely interrupted by a country gentleman they dub The Duke (Eddie Izzard), who starts shooting at them. Turns out the Duke has a partner in romance and in crime: the Duchess (Georgie Glen), who shares the Duke’s bloodthirsty desire to thin the population and rid the world of “undesirables” such as these four seemingly dopey teens.
Much like the wandering young men, “Get Duked!” veers all over the place, with hit-and-miss gags involving a comically inept local police force that becomes convinced a gang of terrorists has invaded the Highlands, and a too-long sequence about DJ Beetroot somehow becoming a cult superstar among the old-school farmers, who share the boys’ interest in getting messed up on hallucinogenic drugs. Doff has great fun with some deliberately (one would think) cheesy special effects that look like something out of a 1980s comedy, and delivers a handful of sight gags worthy of “Airplane!” or “And Now For Something Completely Different.” The material is pretty thin and some of the jokes get repetitive, but “Get Duked!” is good stoner comedy fun, and quite the promising debut from a rookie filmmaker.