There is a lesser-known phrase in reference to screenplays whose definition may sound familiar –“Deus ex Machina.”

It is the term used for the moment in a plot where there is absolutely no hope for the main character(s), and yet they are saved by another individual or thing. Examples include the eagles at the end of “The Return of the King” that saved Sam and Frodo or even the wildlife reinforcements called into battle in James Cameron’s “Avatar.”

Keep this term in mind, especially when viewing the Amazon Prime original “Get Duked!”

Directed by Ninian Doff, the new dark comedy “Get Duked!” followed four young boys as they attempted to gain a wilderness badge from a program hosted by a duke from Scotland. This wilderness adventure took place in the Highlands, a landscape that was as bleak as it was mountainous. The boys then realized that they were here to be hunted for sport by the duke.

This film was highly reminiscent of the short story by Richard Connell, “The Most Dangerous Game,” which was adapted into a film in 1932. But the 1932 movie was nowhere near as thrilling as this 2020 reanimation. In fact, the barren, treeless landscape of the Highlands makes death seem inescapable, as there was literally nowhere to hide save a few random caves that only lead to dead ends.

Despite the contrasting landscape and the macabre plot, the movie had me laughing in my seat. It had a twisted sense of humor, but I am having a hard time thinking of a movie that has had me laughing this hard, and I am having an even harder time thinking of one that had sustained the humor throughout the entire film. Most comedies fail to maintain the actual comedy, and they end up firing off all their jokes at the very beginning, leaving the next few acts to flounder.

A key motif of this movie was hip-hop. In fact, there was even a moment where it delved into the musical territory, but it somehow fits with the lightheartedness and gloom. The entire soundtrack was composed of rap, and one of the four boys was an aspiring hip-hop artist. This theme only added to the whimsy of the movie, but there were times when it got downright cringeworthy.

Overall, “Get Duked!” was the perfect mixture of funny and suspenseful. It was cleverly written with a quirky edge, and while there were parts that came across as irksome, it was entirely justifiable.



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