“Get Duked!” is, in director Ninian Doff’s own words, “an anarchic cocktail of generational politics, hip-hop loving farmers and hallucinogenic rabbit sh—s.”
The premise: Four boys embark on a trek through the Scottish Highlands in an attempt to win the Duke of Edinburgh award. Three of the boys — Dean, Duncan and the self-proclaimed DJ Beatroot — are best friends and partners in crime who are completing the award for remedial purposes. They plan on spending the trip goofing off and getting high. Then there’s Ian, the fourth boy, who’s looking to achieve the Duke of Edinburgh award to pad his college application. His earnestness about the award’s requirements of “teamwork, foraging and orienteering” is met with confusion from the rest of the group.
Already, “Get Duked!” has gotten its first laughs. Each of the main characters is introduced in a series of photos, newspaper clippings and keywords on their academic records, smashed together in a bright, noisy montage. The overview of the Scottish Highlands map is similarly discordant. The film’s first 10 minutes set up for an insane amount of chaos — and somehow, it still gets more chaotic than you expect.
That’s because “Get Duked!” is not just a comedy. It’s a horror-comedy. Suddenly, our adventuring boys get shot at by a man dressed as the Duke of Edinburgh. And it’s about to get a lot weirder. The situation devolves into a solid hour of hilarity that I don’t dare spoil for you. It’s a mess of runaway vans, wildly incompetent police officers and powdered soup.
Our main squad of four boys is played by virtually unknown actors, all of whom absolutely nail their roles. They’re each playing a comedic stereotype: The film’s poster breaks them down into the mock Latin names “Juvenilia deliquentus,” “Pyro maniacus,” “Hiphoppicus rex” and “Nerdius sapiens.” They’re ridiculous, they know they’re ridiculous and they’re great fun to watch.
As you can probably tell, “Get Duked!” is a bit off the beaten path. It premiered at SXSW 2019 under the title “Boyz in the Wood,” and while critics loved it, it didn’t get a commercial release until Aug. 28, 2020 on Amazon Prime. As wacky as its story is, I think the amount of attention paid to “Get Duked!” has been criminally low.
Why you ask, am I championing this small, strange indie movie?
While “Get Duked!” is Ninian Doff’s directorial debut, I’ve seen plenty of his work before. Doff is my all-time favorite music video director. He’s held that title since I first watched the music video for “Figure It Out” by Royal Blood in 2014. “Figure It Out” is shot through alternating red/blue color filters, and every switch reveals another detail about the video’s storyline.
Since then, Doff’s music videos have captivated me. In “Genghis Khan” by Miike Snow, a supervillain and his captive fall in love; in “Pull My Trigger” by the same artist, John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev solve the Cuban missile crisis with dance. My personal favorite is “Money” by Peace, in which a young businessman uses secret handshakes to access the inner circle of elite reptilians. As far as I’m aware, Doff came up with the plot for that one.
This is all to say that when I heard that Doff was writing and directing his first feature film, I knew I had something to look forward to. And “Get Duked!” delivers, with a lot of the same hallmarks of Doff’s music videos. The quickness of the cuts, the brightly colored glitches to simulate hallucinations, the shots framed with aesthetics in mind — it’s a music video without a backing track, a cascade of clips with a dialogue of their own. Music videos have to hold true to the song they depict; “Get Duked!” is unrestrained.
If you have 90 minutes, give “Get Duked!” a shot. Whether you watch it with your friends or by yourself, you’ll end up laughing.
And if you’ve only got a couple of minutes to spare, watch a music video. It’s visual storytelling in its purest form, and I promise you won’t regret it.