Stars: Alan Ford, Harry Treadaway, Rasmus Hardiker, Michelle Ryan, Jack Doolan, Georgia King, Ashley Bashy Thomas, Tony Gardner, Honor Blackman and Richard Briers.
Writers: James Moran and Lucas Roache.
Director: Matthias Hoene
A comic-relief bit part in an outrageously bloody zom-com may not have been the swansong that the late Richard Briers envisioned for himself. But one can assume that he had as much fun making it as the target audience will have watching Matthias Hoene’s East London-set splat-tacular.
A completely naff pre-credit sequence sets up how the zombie plague erupts; why is not addressed so convincingly. When two construction workers discover an ancient Roman tomb, the fresh air and sunshine that floods in is apparently all that is needed to stir the entombed undead. Soon, everybody’s shuffling…
It is the last thing that a pair of inept young crims, Terry (Rasmus Hardiker) and Andy (Harry Treadaway), need as they prepare for their first big bank job. Nor do the residents of a soon-to-be-demolished old folks home want a zombie intrusion on their weekly dancercise session. Particularly put out is Terry’s grandfather, ageing ne’er-do-well Ray (the inimitable Alan Ford, master of the foul-mouthed putdown and handy with assault rifle).
The two disparate groups – hopeless bank robbers and barely mobile old folks – are flung together and set about blasting their way out of trouble. That’s where the title comes from (ahem). All that Hoene must do is stage his action well (he does), nail the comedic beats (gets it mostly right) and generally bring enough freshness to the endeavour so that detractors don’t bleat “It’s not as good as Shaun of the Dead” (which it is). A more pertinent comparison may be Peter Jackson’s cult classic Braindead, which was similarly action-oriented and gore-obsessed.
By filling out his mid-budget effort with quality actors, the likes of which don’t usually turn up in horror-comedies, was Hoene’s first and best decision. Treadway and Hardiker have great comedic chemistry; of their gang, Michelle Ryan’s zombie-slaying Katy is a blast. Alongside Ford is ex-Bond girl Honor Blackman, who hasn’t forgotten how to handle men and guns. Briers, who passed away on February 17, gets the film’s biggest laugh as he escapes zombie clutches while ambling with a walking frame.
To say that the whole endeavour is bleeding obvious would be understated (and a bad pun), although there is a pleasing subtext about working class values (a bit hard to swallow, given the lead protagonists are also crims). Not that anyone buying tickets to a film called Cockneys vs Zombies will be looking for kitchen-sink dramatics. They’ll want blood and guts and giggles, which Hoene’s film supplies amply.