Hoodlums Repel Aliens; Uday Hussein’s Double; Talking Cat: Film

Dominic Cooper with Ludivine Sangnier in "The Devil's Double." Cooper plays Uday Hussein as well as Latif Yahia in the film. Photographer: Sofie Van Mieghem/Lions Gate via Bloomberg

One night in a seedy London neighborhood, a comet-like object plunges from the sky and crashes into a parked car, not far from where a nurse is being mugged by teenage hoodlums.

When the gang leader inspects the wreckage, he’s attacked by a vicious furry creature. While the nurse (Jodie Whitaker) escapes, the gangsters track down the beast and beat it to death inside a shed.

The opening scene of “Attack the Block” perfectly sets the stage for this terrifying horror film in which the bad guys turn into heroes, mercilessly defending their turf against an alien invasion.

Writer/director Joe Cornish is a British comedian best known for his satires and spoofs. But here -- with a few exceptions -- he’s deadly serious. While Nick Frost and Luke Treadaway provide comic relief as a bumbling drug dealer and his best customer, “Attack the Block” is mostly a classic horror flick, with more gore than goons.

The gang members -- Moses, Pest, Dennis, Jerome, and Biggz -- are skillfully portrayed by a handful of young drama students plucked from obscurity by Cornish.

“Attack the Block,” from Screen Gems, opens Friday in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Austin, Texas. Rating: ***1/2

‘The Devil’s Double’

In 1987, Iraqi soldier Latif Yahia was given an ultimatum by his former schoolmate Uday Hussein: Become my body double or you and your entire family will die.

Not surprisingly, Yahia agreed to the demand by Saddam Hussein’s eldest son. He underwent a series of cosmetic operations and learned how to walk, talk and act like Uday, a ruthless, drug-addicted hedonist who treated women like slaves.

Uday would take Yahia to parties and introduce him as “my brother.” Other times Yahia would pose as Uday to speak to diplomats and rally troops during the invasion of Kuwait. Eventually, Yahia became disillusioned by the violence and debauchery he witnessed, leading to a shootout in a nightclub.

In “The Devil’s Double,” a chilling dramatic film based on Yahia’s autobiographical novel, Dominic Cooper delivers virtuoso performances as Yahia and Uday. Despite their nearly identical appearances, Cooper brilliantly contrasts the brooding Yahia with the maniacal Uday.

Director Lee Tamahori uses some real footage, including shots of President George H.W. Bush and film of live combat and dead bodies. But the most disturbing scene recreates a party where Uday savagely attacks a man who has insulted him.

“The Devil’s Double,” from Lions Gate, opens Friday in New York and Los Angeles. Rating: ***

‘The Future’

“The Future” is narrated by a cat with an injured paw. The feline’s foot isn’t the only thing that’s broken in this pretentious, self-indulgent movie about a couple in the throes of a mid-life crisis.

Sophie, played by writer/director Miranda July, and Jason (Hamish Linklater, the film’s saving grace) are both approaching their 40th birthdays when they decide to adopt a cat. “Paw-Paw” won’t be available for 30 days, a period the couple uses to re-examine their lives and find a new direction before they assume the awesome responsibility of owning a cat.

Jason takes an existential approach to his job search and ends up as a door-to-door tree salesman. Sophie decides to film a YouTube series called “30 Days, 30 Dances,” but never completes a single one.

Talking Cat, Moon

July, a multimedia artist who has directed one other feature, has made a movie that’s as artsy as her name. It gives Sophie and Jason’s search a significance and symbolism that it doesn’t earn. The cat narration, voiced by July, and Joe Putterlik’s talking moon are more distracting than clever.

July confuses silence with profundity. Much of the movie consists of the couple sitting around staring at each other. When ambient sound is used it’s often overdone, particularly in a scene where Jason caresses a corduroy couch with his index finger.

“The Future,” from Roadside Attractions, opens today in New York and Aug. 5 in Los Angeles. Rating: *

What the Stars Mean:

****          Excellent
***           Good
**            Average
*             Poor
(No stars)    Worthless

(Jacob Henkoff writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

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