Cameos from Pete Davidson and 30 Rock’s Tracy Morgan are enjoyable diversions but the jokes themselves are less high-concept, hinging on the men’s thoughts, which are mostly predictable (and predictably crass).
Rafeea, a non-professional actor and Syrian refugee, is the film’s secret weapon. At times, the tragedy unfolding on screen feels borderline unwatchable, but his strange, fascinating, eerily adult face offers a litany of minute expressions. There is a wisdom, a soulfulness, and an icy, angry candour that feels lived rather than performed.
I’m a huge fan of Cornish’s 2011 debut Attack the Block, but this film isn’t nearly as energetic or enjoyably wacky as its predecessor. In fairness, it’s pitched at a considerably younger audience, but at two hours it drags; less patient children may struggle.
The tone is weird, seesawing between broad comedy (Tig Notaro and Octavia Spencer as hardened adoption agency workers) and manipulative melodrama (I hate to admit it, but a standoff between Pete, Ellie and Lizzy moved me to tears).
Inevitably, some chapters work better than others but it’s an interesting, sideways look at how violence can serve as a catalyst rather than a climax and how it can change – and galvanise – a community.
The film works as a collage of everyday moments that dovetail seamlessly between the sublime and the banal. Indeed in its most mesmerising scenes, the alchemy of duration and focus elevates these moments to something more profound.
Most irritating is the murder scene itself, which sees both women stripping nude, seemingly in order for the camera to leer more effectively at their bodies rather than to spare them getting their petticoats bloodied.
The film’s critiques are unimaginative, tutting at how territories attack first in order to consolidate power, as well as the spectacle of war itself, bystanders crowding the balconies of the ship-like city, shrieking as guns and lasers fire at the wastelands below.
There’s lots to love here, not least the animation itself, which uses split screens, Ben-Day dots and onomatopoeic text that mimic the tactile experience of reading physical comics – panels, hatching and primary colours intact and ready to leap off the page.