Boyz in the Wood

Eddie Izzard plays a murderous aristocrat tracking four working-class teens hiking in the Highlands in this wildly comic class satire from music video director Ninian Doff

Film Review by Jamie Dunn | 19 Jun 2019
  • Boyz in the Wood
Film title: Boyz in the Wood
Director: Ninian Doff
Starring: Samuel Bottomley, Viraj Juneja, Rian Gordon, Lewis Gribben, Eddie Izzard, Georgie Glen, Kate Dickie, James Cosmo, Kevin Guthrie, Jonathan Aris, Alice Lowe

Cinema does not want for films featuring youth in revolt, but rarely has the clash between the young and old been so energetically staged as in Ninian Doff’s debut feature Boyz in the Wood. The film begins with four teens being dropped off in the Highlands for a weekend of orienteering as part of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards. Only one of them, Ian (Bottomley), seems remotely prepared. His teammates are three rougher lads, there as a punishment and clearly not outdoor types.

There's sensitive stoner Dean (Gordon), dim-witted cup-a-soup fiend Duncan (Gribben) and wannabe hip-hop star DJ Beatroot (Juneja), who seems to rap exclusively about his penis and arrives on the hill impractically dressed head-to-toe in white with only a clear plastic poncho for protection against the elements. They’ve more than the Scottish weather to contend with, though. A demented aristocrat who refers to himself as The Duke (Izzard) is stalking the moors ready to do some class cleansing.

Doff doesn’t shy away from his background in music promos. The film’s straightforward action-comedy structure is full of wild vignettes and surreal digressions, many of them prompted by the consumption of hallucinogenic rabbit droppings, set to music and filmed with an ironic swagger that suggests a Lonely Island skit. The music itself couldn’t be more legit, though. Glasgow producer Alex Menzies (aka Alex Smoke) provides a trippy orchestral score while DJ Beatroot's tumescence-centric raps are courtesy of hip-hop star S-Type.

This rambunctious style is shot through with daft humour and an endearing, toxic-masculinity smashing sweet streak. These lads may be toerags who like to smoke explosive hash and make MacGyver-esque bombs from household objects, but they truly care for one another. Juneja emerges as the star of the picture, but Doff’s script gives space for the other boys to shine too. And at the edge of the film, several stalwarts of Scottish miserabilism (Kate Dickie, James Cosmo, Kevin Guthrie) get the rare chance to flex their comedy muscles, delivering their own memorable shtick.

For all its larking about, Boyz in the Wood has plenty to say about life for young people in Britain today; chiefly, that they’ve been well and truly screwed over by their parents’ generation. In its own goofy way, Doff's film is as angry and political as any Ken Loach picture, only with a higher density of dick jokes.

Boyz in the Wood opens Edinburgh International Film Festival, 19 Jun, Festival Theatre

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