The Duke of Edinburgh Award is a staple of British school life, encouraging kids to experience nature in all its glory. At the same time building individual resilience in sweaty, mud lined tents with a secret stash of alcohol. As awards go, its the epitome of Britishness; dumping a group of hormonal teens in the middle of nowhere, while expecting them to forgo technology in favour of an Ordnance Survey map. The bronze, silver and gold levels led by teachers and youth workers who believe themselves to be Bear Grylls. Their ‘North Face’ hiking jackets concealing small flasks of gin, as they sit on the precipice of a nervous breakdown. It is, therefore, strange that the D of E Award has not played more of a role in dark comedy films. But Get Duked! puts that right with a satirical Scottish Highlands comedy full of devilish glee.
Friends Dean (Rian Gordon), Duncan (Lewis Gribben) and William or DJ ‘Beat’ root (Viraj Juneja), are not your typical A* students. In fact, they spend most of their time in detention due to pranks on fellow students and staff. However, on burning down the school toilets due to one such prank, the boys find themselves undertaking the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award as penance. A final chance to modify their unruly behaviour with Mr Carlyle (Jonathan Aris) leading their rehabilitation. The boys are underwhelmed at the prospect of a weekend hiking in the Highlands. But their sense of futility only increases on meeting homeschooled Ian (Samuel Bottomley); a boy fully committed to the expedition, his laminated tick list of activities and goals hanging around his neck.
As Mr Carlyle leaves the boys in the middle of nowhere with instructions on how to rejoin him at the designated camp. The prospect of hiking, farmer’s fields, and electric fences take second place to some fun. With Ian left on the sidelines, as DJ ‘Beat’ root advertises his amateur hip-hop tracks by placing stickers on every tree and rock. At the same time, as Dean and Duncan use chunks of the map for spliff paper. But the mayhem of their mini-adventure soon becomes deadly as a mysterious older man (who they believe to be the Duke of Edinburgh) starts hunting them down.
There is more than a dose of BBC Three’s delightful ‘The Young Offenders‘ in writer/director Ninian Doff’s movie. As expertly timed comedy shines with a sharp satirical edge; the British class system unceremoniously placed under the wheels of a tractor. The wild, mad, rabbit poo-fuelled escapade that ensues filled with dried soup snorting glee. At the same time as farmers indulge in hip-hop raves and local police search for missing bread. The result is a genuinely engaging and lightning-fast romp through the Scottish Highlands, filled with gags and engaging performances. And make no mistake, while seasoned performers surround the young cast, it’s Gorden, Gribben, Juneja and Bottomley that shine. Their characters finding a place in your heart among the freewheeling chaos that ensues.
Director: Ninian Doff