Get Duked! Review: The Genre-Bending Thriller Keeps Us Entertained but Fails to Break the Mold

get duked movie 2019
(Photo: Amazon Studios)

The transition from being a teenager into becoming an adult is never easy, as few things are more intimidating by the concept of having to leave your childhood behind while also not wanting to accept the responsibilities that come along with maturation, a point in everyone's life made all the more complicated when you don't fit in with your peers. While after-school clubs might be the saving grace for a number of teens, the heroes of Get Duked! are plunged into peril during a weekend excursion, resulting in a relatively engaging blend of humor and horror that is sure to appeal to fans of coming-of-age stories, yet one that falls short of being truly original.

Based on the real-life tradition of troubled teen-aged boys going on a hiking excursion for the Duke of Edinburgh Award, an experience which is meant to bond them together and teach them valuable lessons, the film gives us three best friends who have faced a number of troubles in school, along with a teen who has led a sheltered life, who all must leave their street smarts behind in hopes of traversing the fields of Scotland. As if forcing these four to navigate the Scottish highlands wasn't challenging enough, a deadly threat emerges who is participating in its own tradition of eradicating the community's most disappointing youths, forcing the teens to take unconventional approaches to surviving the ordeal.

Whether it be stories like Lord of the Flies or The Goonies, audiences have always been interested in seeing what happens when the horrors of adolescence are manifested through compelling adventures, a tone which Get Duked! fully embraces. The film establishes its comedic sensibilities early on before letting the more thrilling elements of the narrative emerge, allowing audiences to connect with our heroes' personalities and relationships. Given how many versions of "troubled outcasts" we've seen over the years, it's hard to break ground in that arena, but to be able to conjure personalities that you aren't overly irritated by feels like an accomplishment in its own right.

From a narrative standpoint, the film offers a number of twists and turns that emerge to prevent us from losing interest in the endeavor, yet these details ultimately also feel formulaic. This ends up being what ultimately holds the film back from feeling truly original, in that it is attempting to dive into a subgenre that has so heavily been explored throughout the history of cinema. In 1932, audiences were given an adaptation of The Most Dangerous Game, depicting the rich and social elite hunting humans for sport, with nearly every even remotely similar narrative feeling derivative of that immensely successful story. Even more recently, the film will tonally feel familiar to genre-bending comedies like Hot Fuzz, Attack the Block, or Hunt for the Wilderpeople, though with those films all feeling so fresh when they were released, Get Duked! feels like a watered-down imitation of the various ambitious endeavors that came before it.

When deconstructed piecemeal, there's little about Get Duked! that truly stands out, yet one arena in which it shines is its various psychedelic sequences in which characters consume all manner of mind-altering substances. Between the music and the editing and the visual effects, audiences will feel as joyously bewildered as the characters themselves, made all the more effective by how much of the film merely unfolds across the Scottish countryside. These sequences are when the film truly comes alive and accomplishes things that few other films would attempt to incorporate into a relatively grounded thriller, though these moments are few and far between.

Audiences who are inherently drawn to unconventional characters coming together and putting aside their differences to evade a deadly situation will surely be delighted with the effective blend of tones, but those who aren't immediately impressed by this subgenre will only barely maintain interest as they hope for something more.


Rating: 3 out of 5

Get Duked! lands on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, August 28th.