Cockneys vs Zombies goes easy on the brains
In the spirit of classic British zom-com Shaun of the Dead comes Matthias Hoene’s Cockneys vs Zombies. Swapping a pub for a retirement home, the premise is largely similar: infected victims, better known as zombies, rampage through London leaving a group of unlikely heroes to fend them off whilst rescuing their loved ones. Shakespeare it ain’t, but Cockneys vs Zombies is good fun at the expense of the undead.
Cockneys vs Zombies doesn’t waste time on setting up what little plot there is. An East End construction site is the scene of the unearthing of a tomb from 1666, which happens to be inhabited by more than just skulls and bones. The hows and whys are of no importance, so James Moran and Lucas Roche’s screenplay quickly moves on to introduce the eclectic ensemble cast. Rasmus Hardiker and Treadaway twin Harry are Terry and Andy Macguire, who set out to save their grandfather’s care home from demolition via bank robbery. It’s not long before their highly flawed plan is interrupted by a zombie outbreak that rapidly sweeps across East London. Luckily, their gramps, Ray (Alan Ford), is a former war hero; so while he may be a pensioner, he’s not about to cower in the face of a zombie blitz on the care home. Cockneys vs Zombies is easily at its best when the living dead face-off against the almost-dead (because they’re old, get it? *sigh*), as the absurdity levels delightfully spike right off the chart. It’s just too bad that such goofy excellence isn’t sustained throughout the film’s slight runtime.
Where Shaun of the Dead has a strong enough plot to be able to focus on two central characters, Cockneys vs Zombies’ thin premise is stretched across a sizeable cast. So it’s a good thing that the array of support on-hand works in its favour. Just about stealing the show is Ashley “Bashy” Thomas’ unhinged Mental Mickey, the arms-dealing wild card of the pack. Michelle Ryan and Georgia King show that zombie-slaying isn’t just for the lads, as they more than hold their own against the hordes. The instances of subtle, unspoken humour sprinkled across the script stands out the most, but may also leave the viewer wishing there was more of these clever gags. Either way, be sure to keep a keen eye out for an anti-cruelty advert in a hilarious blink-and-miss-it moment. Banter between the care home residents provides additional giggles, especially when the mick is taken out of the Cockney rhyming slang.
Though it’s mostly good, harmless fun full of fantasy gore, Cockneys vs Zombies lacks much innovation beyond the initial care home assault. There comes a point when watching the repeatedly unspectacular gunning-down of slow-moving targets stops being amusing. Thanks to that effect, the final act lags and features a rather uninspired denouement and, despite running under 90 minutes, the closing credits arrive just in time. Another slight scripting niggle is an over-reliance on the term “muppet” which grates. Though, admittedly, it would surely add to the inevitable drinking games that will prove to be a far better accompaniment to Cockneys vs Zombies than popcorn ever could be.
It’s difficult to criticise a film so obviously meant not to be taken seriously, as reviewing it requires doing exactly that party-pooping thing. There’s no doubt that Cockneys vs Zombies is enjoyable fluff, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that it mostly runs on the fumes of a good idea, rather than fully developing it. Still, Cockneys vs Zombies will likely become a cult favourite, especially once audiences have the chance to knock back a shot each time a zombie finds itself on the receiving end of one. 7/10
Cockney’s vs Zombies opens 31 August in the UK