(Prime) A light comedy/horror movie about four city boys (three hellion misfits, another a straight-up nerd) who have mostly unwillingly signed up to participate in The Duke of Edinbergh’s Award, an ‘outdoor adventure challenge in the Highlands’ set up in 1956 by the Duke of Edinbergh to help inspire young teens to ‘attain standards of achievement and endeavour in a wide variety of active interests’. (The film opens with a clearly faux-dated training video that — partially due to its use of fonts — feels like parody, but it is not, the Award is a very real thing: https://www.royal.uk/60-years-duke-edinburghs-award .)
Left without adult supervision, and only the barest of instructions, the boys dick around, smoke up (using part of the map they were given), and act generally obnoxious (except for the nerd, who is disheartened he’s not receiving the bonding adventure he’d hoped for). For the first third of the film, sitting through the scenes of infantile behavior is tedious, but the gears shift upon the introduction of a older stranger determined to kill youths, and he has his sights trained on them.
From there the adventure really begins, as the boys try to find ways to survive despite their incompetence and their willingness to leap first and look later. There’s a particularly rousing break about midway through that serves as a self-indulgent music video — this is the first feature effort from writer/director Ninian Doff, who has previously directed videos for acts like Run The Jewels and the Chemical Brothers — but the song and visuals ratchet up the fun, before culminating in a final act that tries to draw out a bit of political satire before immediately turning on its heel as if to tell the audience ‘fuck that, have a few more laughs.’
It helps that those playing the boys are able to come across as goofs instead of maniacs, and DUKED is fleshed out with great supporting talent like Eddie Izzard, Kate Dickie (THE VVITCH, PROMETHEUS, PREVENGE), Alice Lowe (SIGHTSEERS, PREVENGE), and Jonathan Aris (loads of British TV like HUMANS, SHERLOCK, etc.) Yes, it’s a slight film but, by the end, it had earned a bit of love.